Spanish international Albert Casas transformed beleaguered Chennai Veerans into an impressive unit on Wednesday, cracking a 47 th minute goal to help them past Chandigarh Dynamos in the Premier Hockey League at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium.
Casas’ stunning strike turned a lifeless match into an absorbing contest, and ended 1-0 in favour of Chennai Veerans, who had lost their last two matches conceding eight goals. With the local team floundering in the Chennai leg, it took the arrival of Casas to inject enthusiasm in the home crowd. The Spaniard, in fact, reached the city on Wednesday morning, but showed no sign of travel fatigue.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Casas was set up by midfielder Somanna in the striking circle and unleashed a powerful reverse hit that goalkeeper Baljit Singh could only be a spectator to. The goal transformed a dull, uneventful match into a combative encounter, with both teams launching one attack after another, but the score remained unchanged until the final hooter.
Until half-time, however, the match showed no hint of the events to come. Neither team got a clear look at the goal, but the Veerans showed more initiative, thanks to Casas, Md Zubair and Raja upfront. In the midfield, Somanna and Pawal Lakra held their own against their opposite numbers Ravipal Singh and Sajjad Anwar.
Dynamos, despite the presence of Prabhjot Singh, Rajpal Singh and Inderjit in the forward line, could just not get into attacking rhythm. Only later, when Deepak Thakur entered the fray, did they string some attacks together and trouble the Veerans. But Raghunath, Muthu Selvan and Vikramjit Singh in the defence held tight, and even three successive penalty corners for the Dynamos late in the first half could not produce a goal, with Jugraj Singh’s drag flicks posing no problems.
With Albert’s goal in the 47th minute, the match sprung to life. Veerans suddenly looked more dangerous, with Raja cutting in time and again and harassing the Dynamos, and Casas and Somanna coming up with neat combinations along the right.
At the other end, Prabhjot was set up by Dutchman Bomans Balder, but his reverse hit was kept away by goalkeeper Shreejesh. The goal-keeper was declared ‘Lion of the match’ for coming to his team’s rescue every time the defence faltered. In the 51 st minute Dynamos earned their fourth penalty corner, but again Jugraj Singh’s low flick was kept out by Shreejesh.
Veerans nearly made it 2-0 in the 60th minute. Albert Casas made another good run into the striking circle and earned a penalty corner. Raghunath’s drag flick beat the defence and the goalkeeper, but slammed against the left post.
With time running out for the Dynamos, their captain Rajpal Singh played a desperate if lone hand upfront. Unable to strike incisive combinations with Deepak Thakur or Prabhjot, Rajpal tried his best to keep up the pressure, but the Veerans’ defence was too good on the day to be dented.
Veerans’ coach Md Riaz praised new arrival Casas and his combination with Somanna. “We changed our formation today. We kept shuffling our forwards… overall, our control and finishing was very good,” Riaz said.
Veerans now have six points from four matches, while Dynamos continue to languish with two from four.
Result: Chennai Veerans bt Chandigarh Dynamos 1-0 (Albert Casas 47th minute)
PC: Dynamos: 33rd, 34th, 34th, 51st