MHRPA IMPHAL, 28th Nov: India B (Manipur) will fight it out with Argentina in the final of the 11th Manipur Polo International 2017. In the two semi final matches played today at the Mapal Kangjeibung, Argentina outclassed England 10-5, while Manipur overcame a spirited challenge from USA to emerge 7-6 winner.
The 2nd semi final match between Manipur and USA proved to be a cliff hanger and the enthusiastic spectators enjoyed the match thoroughly. The Manipur team was the first to find the target in the 19th minute, a hit towards the goal was chased down by L Atangba in front of the goal to tap it in. Nick Johnson immediately came up with the equalizer for USA in the .42nd minute. He further increased the tally in the 5.43th minute to give USA, a 2-1 lead at the end of the chukker.
In the 2nd chukker, the Manipuris dominated completely with P.Ojit scoring two goals in the 3.05th and 4.39th minute. L Atangba, who is having a terrific tournament, fired in another goal in the 3.51st minute for Manipur to surge ahead 4-2 at the end of 2nd chukker.
The 3rd chukker was evenly matched with both the teams scoring two goals apiece. Both the goals of US came through 30 yards penalty shots, one by Jorge Vasquez and the other by Nick Johnson. For India team, P Ojit picked up a beautiful shot towards the goal from the middle of the field to put the ball inside the goal while Pradeep scored the 2nd goal in this chukker with a beautiful neck shot. The chukker ended with Manipur leading 6-4.
USA slotted in a goal in the 1.30th minute of the match to reduce the margin to 5-6, raising the spectre of a strong comeback. But L Atangba once again came to the rescue scoring another goal in the 5.48th minute, increasing the tally to 7-5. The USA team was relentless in their attack which bore fruit in the last few seconds of the match, but by then it was too late to save the match. The Manipur team emerged victorious 7-6.
“They played better polo and deserve to win, we could not take advantage when we got the chance to ride faster horses” was how the American captain Jorge Vasquez summed up the match. He also felt better horsemanship on the ponies was what made the key difference between the teams.
The Manipuri team captain Pradeepkumar said the team was never “nervous anytime during the match, even when we were down by a goal in the 1st chukker”. He also revealed that as a part of a strategy, they decided to mark Brennan Wells and Nick Johnson. He appealed to the public to pray for the team’s success in tomorrow’s final and also dropped a bomb shell that he would give retire from Manipur Polo International if the team fails to win the final.
The umpires of the match were Ben Eeley of England and Martin Scortichini of Argentina who conducted the match very strictly.
Earlier, Argentina once again proved they are a very good team, defeating England by a significant margin of 10-5 goals. In the 1st chukker, The English team put up a spirited fight to the stronger USA, coming up with two goals against the three scored by the Argentines. For the England team, Ben Eeley and George Shelton scored while Juan Pablo Saravia scored two goals and with another one from Juan Cruz for Argentina.
The 2nd and he 3rd chhukker was the period when Argentina ran away with the match. In the 2nd chukker, Argentina scored three goals with Juan Cruz Gramajo scoring twice and Martin Scortichini adding another one while England drew a blank. In the 3nd chukker Juan Pablo and Miguel Uriburu scored for Argentina to increase their team’s tally to 8-2.
The English team had a late resurgence in the last chukker with Phil Seller, George Shelton and Ben Eeley scoring a goal apiece. But with Argentina slotting two more goals through Juan Cruz and Juan Pablo, the fight back came too late in the day for England. Argentina beat England comprehensively with a margin of 10-5. The match was conducted by Nick Johnson of USA and Col Tarsem of India.
The final match tomorrow (Nov 29) will be played between India B (Manipur) and Argentina.