28th February, 2016, Mumbai: It was a day to rejoice for the home fans as defending champions U Mumba sealed the second semi-final spot in Season 3 of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi after beating Jaipur Pink Panthers 35-21 in the opening game of the Mumbai leg.
The first half saw an early all-out secured by the home team with Rakesh Kumar getting the last Panthers player out in the 7th minute. A spectacular raid from the man himself which involved a spin and turn prompted a review from the Jaipur team which turned out to be in favour of U Mumba. FazelAtrachali continued his rich vein of form with two superb tackles to eliminate the threat of Rajesh Narwal in a depleted Jaipur outfit. The second all out for the Panthers came exactly seven minutes later when another Fazel tackle took the score to 18-1. At this point in the match, Jaipur Pink Panthers hadn't scored a single raid point. The 17th minute saw both Rishank and Anup being tackled by the Jaipur defence and the home team ended the first half with the score of 21-5.
The second half began with an all-out for U Mumba which sparked a sliver of hope in the Jaipur camp. Fazel was the last man remaining and tried to stave off the all-out against Rajesh. But the sliver of hope soon faded away when Fazel surprised the entire stadium with his powerful block and lift of the same raider. Rishank Devadiga, who also played a hand in the win, then immediately scored a super raid which led Jaipur to suffer their third all-out of the match in the 33rd minute. Substitutes Bhupender Singh and Abolfazel Maghsodlo were sent in to gain match time and extend the lead of the home team. In the end, another tackle by Fazel along with his countryman Abol saw to it that Jaipur didn't have any way back in the match. The final score ended 35-21 to the home team and saw them sail through to the semi-finals in New Delhi.
Captain Anup Kumar was extremely thankful for the support received by the home fans throughout the match but conceded that there was still work to be done."We are grateful to their support and we are glad that we could win today and also qualify for the semi-finals at the same time. While we have qualified, we still want to win all our matches at home and finish strongly."
On asked about the importance of Fazel in the season so far, Anup smiled and concluded, "Everyone can see how important he has become for the team. He has been in brilliant form and is a very talented defender. Currently he is our first choice defender for that corner even with Surender (Nada) competing for that position. We will need to decide about using our bench strength but everyone will get a chance to play since we are playing at home."
U Mumba take on PuneriPaltan in the Maharashtra Derby tomorrow on the 29th of February at Dome@NSCI SVP stadium.