Puneri Paltan overcame a resilient Tamil Thalaivas, a first half deficit and injury hit raiders to qualify for the vivo Pro Kabaddi final — their first ever. Pankaj Mohite (16 points) and Mohammad Nabibakhsh (6 points) were the stars on an incredibly tense and vibrant evening as Puneri Paltan won the game 39-37 at the Dome, NSCI SVP Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday.
In the early moments of this one, the signs pointed towards a close game between the two sides. But that was till the Thalaivas defence woke up, taking the game by the scruff of the neck. Very soon, Narender and Ajinkya Pawar's raids were being complemented by some brilliant defending, as the Paltan faltered.
It took multiple Super Tackles for the Paltan to delay what would have been an early All-Out, and when the first All-Out did arrive, it saw the Thalaivas surge into a 15-11 lead. Now, in sync and in control, the Thalaivas started controlling the game, and despite falling in numbers to some brilliant raids by Pankaj Mohite, they executed some Super Tackles of their own to ensure they didn't surrender an All-Out. The teams went into the break with the Thalaivas leading 21-15 but boasting fewer players on the mat.
Puneri Paltan came out in the second half determined to inflict an early All-Out to regain momentum. Missing their two lead raiders in the game, and up against a strong, resilient Thalaivas unit, it proved difficult. It took the guile and brilliance of Mohammad Nabibakhsh to help them get their own first All-Out to make it a one point game.
The difference between the two teams almost never extended two points in the final 10 minutes with both teams trading points constantly in a tactical battle of the highest quality. Mohite completed his 10 points for the game and with five minutes remaining, the teams were locked at 30-30.
It was in that final period of the match that Paltan captain Fazel Atrachali sprung to life with both his tackle points in the game coming at a crunch time and both removing Ajinkya Pawar. With barely three minutes left, the Paltan got their second All-Out of the game to take a 36-30 lead. It was a lead they never let slip, holding the Thalaivas off at an arm's distance to smartly close out the game and qualify for the final.
Best Raider - Pankaj Mohite (14 Raid Points)
Best Defender - Gaurav Khatri (4 Tackle Points)
Best Raider - Narender (11 Raid Points)
Best Defender - Sahil Gulia (3 Tackle Points)
Where to watch vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 9 LIVE?
Catch all the LIVE action from vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 9 on the Star Sports Network and LIVE streaming on Disney+Hotstar.