The opening match of Matchday 5 saw Gujarat Fortunegiants, fresh from their win against Dabang Delhi K.C. on Tuesday, take on fellow new entrants Haryana Steelers, who had impressed in their debut VIVO Pro Kabaddi match against U Mumba not long ago. Both teams had strong all-round players, and in the end the match was closely fought at Hyderabad’s Gachibowli Indoor Stadium on Wednesday and culminated in a 27-27 tie.

Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh admitted that playing back-to-back matches made things a little difficult for them. “We had to come back after yesterday’s win and play a tough match again today. We had the lead at one point but they managed to turn the game around in the last 7 minutes or so. Of course, the opposition had done their homework but we made too many errors in the closing moments of the game which we will have to improve on going forward in the league,” he said at the post-match press conference.

The coach was also impressed by young raider Sachin’s performance that saw him earn three points for his team. “Sachin is young but always raids according to situation,” said Singh, “We have mainly used him for do-or-die raids where the pressure on an individual is greater. I’m sure as he continues to play, his understanding of the game will improve and he will get better,” he said.

Fortunegiants captain Sukesh Hegde, meanwhile, was happy not to have lost the match but was not satisfied with his team’s performance. “I am happy that we did not lose but next time we will have to come better prepared,” he said about the game, “Haryana have a good defensive combination in Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar. They have experience and know each other well which made life difficult for our raiders today,” Hegde said.

Steelers captain Surender Nada too knows that opposition raiders are worried at the sight of him and Mohit Chhillar in defence. “Everyone knows that I and Mohit Chhillar are a good combination so raiders think twice before trying to get points against us. They know that if they try too hard for a bonus or touch point they will get tackled by the Surender-Mohit duo. This builds pressure on the raiders,” acknowledged the captain.

In the second match of the day, Maninder Singh shone bright for his team Bengal Warriors as they trumped home side Telugu Titans 30-24. Their coach Jagdish Kumble feels the raider will only get better from here. “This was Maninder’s first game after his comeback hence he took some time to get going. I’m confident that in future matches he will do even better than this,” the Bengal coach said.

Meanwhile, Bengal captain Surjeet Singh was all praise for his team. “We have formed a good team,” he said, “We were confident that both raiders Jang Kun Lee and Maninder will do well, so we just had to keep the defence tight. Especially against Rahul Chaudhari the plan was to tire him out and then take him down, which worked.”

From the other party following their fourth successive loss, a dejected Telugu Titans coach Naveen Kumar admitted that they were yet to find a good combination in defence and planned to make some changes in the team going forward till they can find it. He signed off with this: “Tomorrow is our last game in the home leg and we really want to go out with a win.”