Pardeep Narwal reminded the world why he is regarded as the “playoff king” with an 18-point performance to help UP Yoddha beat Puneri Paltan 42-31 in the first eliminator of Pro Kabaddi League Season 8 playoffs. UP Yoddha made an incredible comeback to win the crucial encounter after trailing by eight points in the early minutes of the first half. Pardeep Narwal was ably supported by Yoddha’s much-famed corner combination of Nitesh Kumar (three points) and Sumit (five points). Aslam Inamdar scored a Super 10 for Puneri Paltan but it lacked the usual raiding power to trouble the in-form U.P. defence.

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Pune raced to a 5-0 lead in the initial minutes with the raiding duo of Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat taking control of the mat. Mohit was also good in the defence, contributing in tackles as Pune dominated the proceedings. He helped Paltan inflict the first All Out of the match in the seventh minute with a four-point raid that gave Pune an eight-point advantage, but Yoddha immediately staged a comeback with Surender Gill leading the way. The star raider picked up three quick points while the defence tightened to help Yoddha clinch an All Out in the 13th minute. That levelled the scores at 10-10.

Pardeep Narwal then completely changed the complexion of the game with a stunning five-point Super Raid. UP Yoddha took a lead for the first time in the match and Pune could not stop another All Out in the final minute before the interval despite a Super Tackle by substitute Hadi Tajik. The Iranian picked up a yellow card in the process (two-minute penalty) and Pune had to play with a man disadvantage. The All Out wasn’t the last action in the first half however with Pardeep Narwal picking a three-point Super Raid to give Yoddha an eight-point lead (25-17). The “record breaker” clinched his Super 10 in the process.

The “Pardeep Show” had no plans of stopping in the second half. He picked another three-point Super Raid as Yoddha raced to a big lead. Nitesh Kumar and Sumit also contributed from the defence as they secured another All Out in the sixth minute after the restart to make the scores 33-21.

The Pune defence, especially their right corner Sombir, continued to struggle against Pardeep’s quick feet on the mat. Pune’s Aslam Inamdar picked up a Super 10 but he was relying mostly on Bonus Points. Pune’s coach Anup Kumar introduced Akash Shinde to bolster the raiding department. He picked up five important points but UP continued to dominate with their defenders looking sharp.

With five minutes remaining, Yoddha had a nine-point lead. Sumit picked his High 5 with four minutes remaining as Yoddha looked in complete control of the match. Pardeep and Surender Gill took turns to slow down the speed of the raids in the final minutes as Pune conceded the defeat. Yoddha’s win secured  a place in the semifinals where it will play league table-topper Patna Pirates on Wednesday.

- Bengaluru Bulls steamrolls Gujarat Giants to reach semifinals -

A collective performance led by star raider Pawan Sehrawat helped Bengaluru Bulls thrash Gujarat Giants 49-29 in the second eliminator match. Pawan Sehrawat scored 13 points while Mahender clinched a High 5 from the cover position. The Bulls outplayed Gujarat in every department with secondary raiders Bharat and Chandran Ranjit also contributing to the points. Gujarat lacked the usual focus in the defence and conceded an early lead which it found difficult to chase. Bengaluru Bulls will now play Dabang Delhi KC in the second semi-final on Wednesday.

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The match had a cagey start with both teams sizing each other up. The defences made uncanny errors while raiders took a very cautious approach. But Bengaluru slowly started dominating with its secondary raider Chandran Ranjit also chipping in with valuable points. That double-headed attack along with Pawan gave Bulls their first All Out in the 14th minute to open a nine-point lead.Gujarat didn’t let the All Out affect it badly and immediately initiated a fightback.

Rakesh S and Pardeep Kumar started dominating the raids and reduced Bengaluru to just two men on the court in the final minute of the first half. But Mahender clinched a Super Tackle right before the interval to end the half with the scores 24-17. Gujarat had just one tackle point in the first half.

The Bulls prevented an early All Out with another Super Tackle by Mahender in the first minute of the second half. He picked his High 5 in the process and Bharat then backed it up with a four-point Super Raid. The numerical advantage helped the Bulls inflict another All Out in the sixth minute after the restart to make the scores 35-21. Pawan secured his Super 10 as the Bulls opened a 15-point advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the eliminator round.

The Bulls continued to dominate with their defence thwarting the Giants with ease. They had 14 tackle points compared to Gujarat’s five with five minutes remaining. Bengaluru was also buoyed by the fact that both Bharat and Chandran Ranjit were having a good game. This ensured Pawan spent very little time in the dugout. The Season 6 champion inflicted another All Out with three minutes remaining to make the scores 48-28. The Bulls' defenders kept calm in the final minutes to clinch an important playoff win.