Puneri Paltan come from behind to defeat Tamil Thalaivas 39-37 

Mohammad Nabibakhsh's all-round abilities helped Puneri Paltan beat Tamil Thalaivas

Puneri Paltans made a comeback from behind to end the fairytale story of Tamil Thalaivas in PKL 2022 with a 39-37 win over them at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Indoor Stadium in Mumbai and punch their way into the finals. 

In the absence of Mohit Goyat and Aslam Inamdar, it was Pankaj Mohite who stepped up to fill their boots as his 15 raid points became the deciding factors between the two sides. 

Narender’s dubki to bag with a multi-point raid early in the game helped Tamil Thalaivas pick an early 5-2 lead. However, a Super Tackle on him a few minutes later reduced the deficit to one point. However, Thalaivas picked six points in a stretch to have a 15-9 lead in the 13th minute. 

Both sides stayed cautious for the rest of the first half as the Thalaivas had a 21-15 lead before the change of sides. 

The Paltans played on Do-or-Die raids and banked on their defense to pick up points. The plan did wonders as they reduced Tamil Thalaivas to two men with the strategy. Mohammad Nabibakhsh dived just in time and kept his body inside the lobby to win a point for the Pune-based outfit. Sachin stepped into the opposition half in the surrender raid but was able to win only a bonus for his side. 

The Puneri Paltan were only one behind at 23-24 when they inflicted the All-Out in the 28th minute. With seven minutes left on the clock, Pankaj Mohite responded with a multi-point raid to put Pune in the driver’s seat for the first time in the contest. 

Fazel’s crunching thigh hold on Ajinkya Pawar followed by Pankaj Mohite’s two-point raid restricted Tamil Thalaivas to only two men in the 36th minute. Narender won a bonus for his side but the cover defenders dashed him out as Pune had a five-point lead with only three minutes remaining as the scoreline was 36-31. 

Tamil Thalaivas replied with quick raid points but Pune was more than happy to gift it to them as they ran down the clock while going up front. Fazel took the honours of stepping to the opposition half in the buzzer raid but didn’t even cross the baulk line to wear down the remaining thirty seconds on the clock.  

Tamil Thalaivas will feel heartbroken by the outcome of the match, especially after their performances in the first half. Ajinkya Pawar and Narender did their best but they lacked the experience to maintain their calm in the second half.  

Mohammad Nabibakhsh and Fazel Atrachali made the most of their experience in the playoffs to orchestrate a second-half comeback. Pankaj Mohite’s performance in the raiding department took the Thalaivas outfit by surprise as they were unable to keep pace with his swift movements.

Puneri Paltan made their intentions clear in the auction by breaking the bank on the first day by going gung-ho on the Iranian duo of Nabibakhsh and Fazel. The move seemed to have paid dividends as they etched their way all the way to the finals. It remains to be seen how they fare against Jaipur Pink Panthers’ Deepak Niwas Hooda, V Ajith Kumar, and Rahul Chaudhari in the finals on Sunday.