Bangalore: Bengaluru Bulls did more than required by defeating league leaders Jaipur Pink Panthers 30-29 to book their berth in the semi-finals of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi tournament Wednesday. Trailing 14-18 at half-time, the Bulls, who were tied on points with Telugu Titans at the start of the match, enjoyed a profitable second session when they not only made ground, but also moved ahead in the last five minutes with skipper Manjeet Chillar picking up four points, two of them from well-timed tackles. The Bulls managed to nurse the lead to the buzzer to confirm their progress to the semi-finals while finishing third on the table behind Panthers and U Mumba who earlier beat Puneri Paltan 36-35.
In the semi-finals Friday in Mumbai, Panthers take on fourth-placed Patna Pirates while Bulls face U Mumba. While Chillar brought in eight points, Deepak Kumar topped with nine and Ajay Thakur seven. For Panthers, top raider Maninder Singh was the spearhead with 12 points. An action-packed first session saw the Panthers galloping ahead and even leading by eight points with about five minutes left. However, the Bulls came charging back and in a flurry of action, picked up points to almost draw level. The Panthers, looking a bit complacent having already made the semi-finals, still looked the better side at the outset with Balbir Singh and Maninder Singh coming up with very productive raids. Meanwhile, the Bulls kept their composure and yet again, the pair of Ajay Thakur and Deepak Kumar who kept the home team in the race with some daring raids especially at the fag end of the half. Yet, the Panthers managed to stay in front, if only just, but with a 18-14 lead at half-time, they seemed to have a cushion against a possible late fight back by the Bulls. The final outcome was in suspense until the last few minutes when Chillar came up with a brilliant display to win crucial points for the Bulls and wipe out a five-point deficit. Earlier, U Mumba defeated a spirited Puneri Paltan 36-35 in a match that had no impact on the league table. Mumba, who had already qualified for the knock-out stage, had little to lose as also Puneri who crashed to their 12th defeat in 14 matches to finish at the bottom of the table. Mumbai’s success was built around Anup Kumar (10 points), Rishank Devadiga (8) and Surender Nada (8) while Puneri found their heroes in skipper Wazir Singh (9 points) and Manoj Kumar (10). Mumba led 23-21 at the break after enjoying a five-point advantage earlier before Puneri came up with a spirited fight back to go into half-time on pace with their opponents. It was Mumba who looked the better team as they picked up easy points initially, but once Puneri found their feet, the contest was closer. The trend continued on resumption and it all boiled down to the final minutes when Mumba picked up some crucial points to finish in front.