PKL: U Mumba enters semis in style

U Mumba established a firm stranglehold very early on, and quelled the Panthers’ challenge 35-21 to secured a semi-final slot.

U Mumba and Jaipur Pink Panthers in action at the National Sports Club of India in Mumbai.   -  PTI

Champions rise to the occasion and that’s exactly what U Mumba did against Jaipur Pink Panthers in its opening home match of the Pro Kabaddi League at the National Sports Club of India here on Sunday. The defending champion established a firm stranglehold very early on, and quelled the Panthers’ challenge 35-21 to secured a semi-final slot.

In the late match of the day, Telugu Titans’ Rahul Chaudhari (14 points), Rohit Baliyan and Sukesh Hegde excelled as the team stayed in the race for the last four with a 42-41 win over table-topper Patna Pirates. It has to win its last league match against U Mumba next Tuesday and hope the results of Bengal Warriors and Puneri Paltan fall in its favour.

The Titans’ seventh victory took its points tally to 38 points in 13 matches. Paltan and Warriors have 42 points each with two matches to play.

Almost a month ago, the Anup Kumar-led U Mumba was outwitted 18-27 in the first leg of the league at Visakhapatnam, but cheered on by a humungous turnout, U Mumba won a series of defensive points before the powerful Rishank Devadiga and the clever duo of Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar returned a series of touch points on raids.

Big lead

In the initial phase, U Mumba conceded just a tackle point to Iranian Mohammad Maghsoudlou before racing to an 18-1 lead, the bulk of it scored by the successful raids of Devadiga (10 points), Anup and Rakesh.

The U Mumba captain always looks to hoodwink opponents and generally it’s at crucial times that he makes his raids count. It took five minutes for the winner to pick up the first raid point when Rakesh did the honours.

The Panthers were reduced to two players and U Mumba pounced on the opportunity to pile on the points. The Panthers were all out thrice and it was left to Rajesh Narwal and Anil Patil to put up a semblance of fight in the second half.

U Mumba ran into a bad patch, but once again Anup and Devadiga came to the rescue. Defender Fazel Atrachali of Iran and Jeeva Kumar then got into serious action to rattle off points in the last five minutes to completely deflate their rivals. The U Mumba tackles were so hard and heavy that two of the Panthers players — Maghsoudlou and Rohit Rana — had to leave the scene with nose and head injuries.

U Mumba has three more matches to play — against Puneri Paltan, Telugu Titans and Dabang Delhi — which will give plenty of opportunities to reflect and deploy its bench strength before proceeding to New Delhi for the knockouts.

The results: U Mumba bt Jaipur Pink Panthers 35-21; Telugu Titans bt Patna Pirates 42-41.

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