PKL: Atrachali stars as Gujarat retains top position in Zone A

The Iranian defender was the difference between the two sides on the day, with a massive nine tackle points in 10 attempts.

Pawan Kumar of Gujarat Fortunegiants touches the midline as Puneri Paltan’s Dharamraj Cheralathan and Sandeep Narwal fail to stop him.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Iranian Fazel Atrachali stood tall against everything the opposition raiders threw at his team to ensure that Gujarat Fortunegiants continued its unbeaten run in the competition, overwhelming Puneri Paltan 35-21 in the battle of Zone A table-toppers at the Pro Kabaddi League here on Tuesday. The result also ensured Gujarat's continuation at the top of the table.

Resuming after a day's break and with the inter-zonal challenges over, the focus shifted to intra-zonal competition and Gujarat, making its debut this season as one of the four new teams, proved its previous wins on home soil was no fluke. The only team so far to be undefeated at home was favourite for the tie and the Sukesh Hegde-led side did not disappoint. While Hegde himself scored quite a few raid points, the star for the team was Iranian Atrachali.

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Combining with compatriot Abozar Mighani to control either corners of the field, Atrachali manned the defence expertly with excellent support from Parvesh Bhainswal to ensure Gujarat remained ahead at all times. The compactness of its defence can be gauged from the fact that despite being reduced to four players several times, Gujarat was not all-out even once. Instead, it turned the tables to score a lona (all-out) twice, once in each half. Whether it was through ankle-hold, body-blocking or simply pushing the raider out of play, Atrachali was everywhere.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that was the difference between the two sides on the day, the Iranian proving his status as a marquee player and one of the highest paid foreigners in the league with a massive nine tackle points in 10 attempts. Hegde and Sachin, meanwhile, ensured they came back with points even as youngster Pawan Sehrawat came on as substitute and proved the decision right.

For Pune, all its key players scored but not as much as it needed. Captain Deepak Hooda, Sandeep Narwal, Girish Ernak tried their best but were unable to find a way past the Gujarat defence.

While Gujarat rode on its defence to continue its unbeaten run, UP Yoddha's continued to flounder as the host crashed to its third straight loss at home, going down by a lone point 31-32 to struggling Bengal Warriors.

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It was the third time the team lost by a narrow margin in the final few minutes despite looking like winning. Nitin Tomar, Rishank Devadiga and Rajesh Narwal did well on the raids but a weak defence let it down, yet again.

The result:

Gujarat Fortunegiants 35 (Fazel Atrachali 9, Sukesh Hegde 5, Sachin 4, Abozar Mighani 4, Pawan Sehrawat 4) bt Puneri Paltan 21 (Deepak Hooda 5, Sandeep Narwal 4, Girish Ernak 4); Bengal Warriors 32 (Deepak Narwal 10, Jang Kun Lee 4) bt UP Yoddha 31 (Nitin Tomar 8, Rishank Devadiga 7, Rajesh Narwal 4).

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