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Punjab will be tough, but we can beat them: Dhanraj

Air India coach and former India captain Dhanraj Pillay is confident his boys can pull off a win against Punjab in the final of the National Hockey Championships here. 

Yesterday, AI and Punjab knocked out last year’s finalists, Karnataka and Haryana respectively in two semi-finals. While AI came from behind to defeat Karnataka 3-2 after trailing 0-2 with 20 minutes to go with Vinaya Vokkaliga netting the winner just as the final hooter went off, Punjab comfortably beat defending champions Haryana 4-1 in the other semi-final.

“Punjab is a tough team and have played well this far. But our boys also did well to comeback against Karnataka today. We can beat Punjab,” the four-time Olympian told MiD DAY. Pundalik Bellary and Nitin Thimmaiah put Karnataka 2-0 up before Arjun Halappa converted two penalty strokes and Vinaya made it 3-2.

Earlier, Punjab’s drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh scored twice (15th & 21st mins) while Satbir Singh and skipper Sarvanjit Singh added a goal each before Naveen Antil pulled one back for Haryana. 

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