After their loss in their second home against Patna Pirates, Puneri Paltan’s coach Anup Kumar has said that the collective failure of the team, defence and offence, cost them the match. He also talked about how Neeraj’s performance was unexpected and how that affected his entire raiding unit.
After their brilliant first home win, Pune was expected to do well against Patna as well but they lost by a huge margin of 22 points. They not only slipped one rank but increased their points difference which could hurt them at the end of the regular season. They started well in the match as they got points in both departments and with Pankaj Mohite’s early super raid, Pune went up by four points. However, once Nitin Tomar was Super Tackled by Neeraj Kumar, the momentum shifted towards Patna and they were able to inflict an all-out 5 minutes after the Super Raid.
“See, the team is the same. Even the starting seven was the same. Neither the defence set in this game nor the raiders clicked, as much as we had hoped. It was okay until half time. But it's difficult to play against someone like Pardeep. Our side isn't quite perfect, our two covers are injured, so that's one big problem. Rest, we executed advance tackles and that's why we lost. Pardeep had executed two toe touches, one to Surjeet Singh and the other to Nitin Tomar and that explains it,” coach Anup Kumar said in the post-match press conference.
Though the raiding unit scored 25 points which was just one short of Patna's total, Pune’s raiding department seemed ineffective because of their strike rate. Neeraj Kumar equalled Manjeet Chhilar's record for most tackle points in a single match,11, and that is what turned the game for them. Pune had as many as 18 unsuccessful raid attempts and that’s saying a lot. On the defensive front, it did not get any better as the defenders collectively had 24 unsuccessful tackle attempts and a total of eight tackle points.
“The raiding wasn't up to the mark. But if you check Neeraj's performance in his previous matches, they aren't this good. He has scored a point here and there, and I think he had one High 5 and after that he played so well, that means our raiders weren't alert enough. They didn't focus on him at all. He tackled one raider two-three times, and the raiders should have taken note of that.
"We had prepared well, based on the opposition team's analysis,” Anup said when asked if they hadn’t prepared for Neeraj enough.