Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors will clash in the final of Pro Kabaddi League season seven after winning their respective semifinal matches on Wednesday. In the first semifinal, Naveen Kumar was the star as Dabang Delhi beat defending champions Bengaluru Bulls 44-38 to book their maiden summit clash berth. Bengal Warriors beat U Mumba 37-35 in the other semifinal in a tightly-fought contest to also clinch a place in the finals for the first time.
The final will be played at EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Saturday. Delhi produced an all-round performance, with Naveen Kumar impressing with his raids (15 raid points) and Anil Kumar dominating with his tackles (4 points) to win in front of a packed stadium.
Meanwhile, Bulls, just like in the Eliminator against UP Yoddha, had a slow start, with Delhi dominating the first few plays. Ravinder Pahal seemed keen to maintain his dominance in duels against Pawan Sehrawat and started the match with a clean ankle hold of the ‘High flyer’.
Delhi dominated in all departments, with Naveen Kumar spearheading the attack, and inflicted the first All-Out of the match in the fifth minute to open up a 6-point lead.
Pawan secured a three-point Super Raid in the seventh minute to reduce the margin but Delhi maintained their momentum thanks to an unstoppable Naveen Kumar. They inflicted another All-Out in the 13th minute to open up an 11-point lead as Naveen Kumar secured another Super 10 (his 20th consecutive).
Naveen did make a rookie error as he failed to complete a raid on time which gave the Bulls some hope going into the break. Delhi led Bulls 26-18 at half time. The Bulls opted for a more aggressive approach in the second half with the defenders consistently getting better of the Delhi raiders in do-or-die situations.
But what makes Delhi a complete unit is the presence of versatile all-rounders and the likes of Chandran Ranjit and Vijay stepped up with valuable raid and tackle points to always maintain a healthy lead of six or seven points.
In the second semifinal of the day, Bengal Warriors matched the in-form U Mumba side in the early exchanges, with Sukesh Hegde looking composed in his raids. Despite the absence of lead raider Maninder Singh, Bengal produced a memorable performance to stun the former champs Mumbai.
Rinku Narwal in the left corner was also having a good day for the Warriors who were helped by some uncharacteristic errors in the Mumbai defence. A two-point raid by Sukesh for the Warriors in the 12th minute, pushing away Fazel Atrachali in his way back to the halfway line, set the tone for Warriors who inflicted an All-Out with 5 minutes remaining to open a 4-point lead.
The All-Out gave the Bengal the confidence they needed and they improved the lead to 6 (18-12) at the end of the half.
Bengal made the mistake of slowing the pace of the match in the early minutes of the second half that allowed Mumba to reduce the gap a little but Sukesh Hegde produced a stellar 4-point Super Raid in the 8th minute to deflate U Mumba’s confidence.
The Warriors pressed home the advantage to clinch another All-Out in the 10th minute of the half to open up a 10 point gap.
Despite Mumbai’s best efforts, they could not bring down Bengal’s lead as the match moved to the final minutes with Bengal well in control. U Mumba went on to clinch an All-Out with 3 minutes remaining to make it a one-point game. Sandeep Narwal’s block with under two minutes remaining made it 35-35.
Arjun Deshwal failed in a Bonus Point attempt in his team’s penultimate raid and the Warriors floored the raider in the final move of the game to clinch the match.