Defender Gursev Singh fired in two crucial goals to steer former champions Mumbai into the final of the 63rd Rangaswamy Cup Senior National Hockey Championship at the floodlit Aishbagh Astroturf stadium, in Bhopal, on Friday.
In the first semi-final, Mumbai routed Chandigarh 3-0, with Gursev scoring the first two goals in the 4th and 63rd minutes and forward Jayesh Jadhav adding the third in the 67th, all off penalty-corners.
Mumbai got off to a dream start, putting the pressure early on the opposition when Manish Yadav, who was in front of the goal, failed to trap a Laxman Rao pass in the third minute.
But to their delight, they earned their first penalty-corner > in the next minute and defender Gursev Singh found the net off goalkeeper Harjeet Singh's pads.
A full strength Chandigarh, looking for their maiden entry into the championship round, came back into the match by the end of the first quarter and earned two scoring opportunities in quick succession, though both went abegging.
On the first occasion, Gaganjeet failed to connect a cross from the right while in front of goal in the 13th minute, and defender Gagandeep Jr's firm grounder off their first penalty-corner was brilliantly saved on the goalline by Amit Gowda.
With a 1-0 advantage at half-time, Mumbai kicked off the second half like they did the first and held possession soon after resumption.
The speedy Vikram Yadav should have found the target in the 41st minute but an alert custodian Harjeet padded the ball away to safety.
Harjeet effected another save four minutes later while foiling Gyanendra Pandey.
In between, Chandigarh's Harmanpreet and Deepanshu Bhargav missed the target by a whisker off their third penalty-corner that would have kept their hopes alive and set the tone for an exciting finish.
But Gursev made it safe for Mumbai with his second goal off their third penalty-corner in the 63rd minute and Jayesh Jadhav sealed victory three minutes from the end off the fourth and last penalty-corner.