The first semi-final of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League saw second-placed Telugu Titans take on Bengaluru Bulls at the NSCI indoor stadium in Mumbai on Friday. In a high-intensity South Indian derby, the Bulls edged their opponents out with a 39-38 win to advance to the finals. Skipper Manjeet Chhillar led from the front once again along with handy support from raider Ajay Thakur and experienced campaigner Dharmaraj Cheralathan.
Manjeet Chhillar, Ajay Thakur help Bengaluru Bulls earn 6-point lead in first half:
Telugu Titans, who had never beaten Bengaluru Bulls so far, had their best chance to change the equation. On the other hand, the Bulls opened their account with a bonus point from Manjeet Chhillar. The Bengaluru Bulls skipper was at his best as he did most of the damage by keeping key man Rahul Chaudhari away from the mat. After a tight initial phase, the Bulls surged ahead after picking up an all-out, thus leaving the Titans 6 points behind at the close of the first half.
Telugu Titans stage impressive fightback, Manjeet stars in last-minute drama:
The Bengaluru Bulls continued to produce Kabaddi of the highest order in their semifinal clash as they continued to plunder points at will. They inflicted the second all-out in no time to stretch their lead to over 15 points. Manjeet Chhillar was once again the chief architect as he spent most of the time planning his strategies while Cheralathan took care of the defense along with Somvir Shekhar. The pair accounted for a whopping 11 tackle points and troubled every Telugu Titan raider who came their way. Manjeet Chhillar left the mat for the first time in the 31st minute but was revived soon after.
With just five minutes left to play, the Bengaluru Bulls had placed themselves 14 points clear of the Titans as the score read 34-20. In the time-out, Bengaluru coach Randhir Singh had given clear instructions to his players to only contain their opponents and avoid unnecessary risks. The Bulls failed to pay heed to their coach’s words and made a royal mess of the 14-point cushion.
Telugu Titans fought back through Super Tackles from Deepak Nivas Hudda and Sandeep Kandola and changed the equation to a nerve-wrecking 36-38 in the space of just 5 minutes.
The last minute saw Ajay Thakur being tackled and Rahul Chaudhari picked up another raid point on pursuit to bring the score to 37-38. Manjeet Chhillar then came up with another brilliant raid where he got two touches but was given only one point by the referee.
Manjeet produced another moment of tactical brilliance as he stood in the way of his teammates and Rahul Chaudhari. He did this to deny Rahul more than a point so that Bengaluru could escape with a one-point win. The final score read 39-38 in favour of the Bulls and it was Manjeet Chhillar and his band of raging bulls that are now on their way to the finals.