Haryana shift into overdrive, put eight past listless Bengal

It was a breathtaking move that started with the hockey version of Zinedine Zidane's legendary Marseille turn and culminated in a telepathic one-touch goal.

In the 49th minute, with his back to the opposition goal, Sardar Singh received the ball at around the centre line and in one smooth motion beat his marker with a 180 degree turn and sent an inch-perfect cross to Gagandeep Singh just outside the circle.

Gagandeep, knowing instinctively what was coming, crouched forward and deftly directed the ball towards the far post. Naveen Antil had already stationed himself there to guide it home. On a drawing board, the path that the ball traced would have made, fittingly, a 'Z'.

It was a shame that it was played out in front of the near empty stadium at quarter to eight on Monday morning, as Haryana, scrappy a day before, found their rhythm against Bengal in a Pool A match of the nationals.

The defending champions, who were put in front in the 4th minute by a Didar Singh strike, pumped in seven more - six in the second half, including that goal.

By the time it was over, with Sardar Singh scoring off a penalty corner after the buzzer, their listless 2-1 win against debutants Bhopal, looked liked an aberration.

"Yesterday was the opening day, so the result against Bhopal was understandable. It seemed that they were playing under pressure," said Haryana coach Sandeep Sangwan, who added that their defence was a worry, but it would get a boost with Harpal Singh set to join the team in a couple of days.

Until then, Haryana's motto seems to be: an all-out attack is the best defence. "Today I told all my players go out there and try scoring goals," Sangwan said. I also told them to forget pressure and have a bit of fun."

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