Mumbai Marines torpedoed Chennai Cheetahs' semi final hopes with a comprehensive 4-1 victory in the final league encounter of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium here on Friday.
The Marines, who had no chance of advancing even with a victory, spoilt their southern rivals' chances with some fine defending, especially by their captain Adrian D'Souza, who kept the scoreboard clean with some splendid saves, and some opportunistic strikes up front.
Cheetahs, who needed nothing less than a victory to push out Pune Strykers and finish third in the league, failed in their endeavour despite forcing a spate of penalty corners as their drag-flick expert Imran Warsi failed to beat rival custodian and Marines captain Adrian D'Souza till the fag end of the game.
The result knocked Cheetahs out of the competition along with the Marines and the semi final line-up is: Chandigarh Comets versus Pune Strykers at Bangalore and Shet-E-Punjab versus Karnataka Lions at this venue.
Both the semi finals are to be held on April 1 while the final will be held at this venue on April 2.
The Marines struck twice in the opening half through Xess Banmali, a field effort in the third minute, Ajmer Singh who converted a penalty stroke in the 21st minute after Sushil Topno's stick was hooked by Cheetahs' custodian C Santosh, and in the 61st through a superb strike by Australian Troy Sutherland to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
Cheetahs', who wasted eight short corners with their expert Imran Warsi repeatedly foiled by Olympian Adrian, finally opened the account in the 65th minute when the Pakistani ace at last got the ball past the Marines skipper.
However, the Marines scored their last goal to complete the visitors' humiliation when Aijub Ekka sounded the board from an unmarked position to complete the rout.
The Marines started positively with some incisive moves but Joga Singh, their top scorer with 7 goals under his belt, dithered inside the 'circle' and was easily dispossessed of the ball on a few occasions.
The home team, playing at their venue after almost a fortnight's gap, forged into the lead in the third minute through a move on the right side. A crowded area saw the ball passed from the by-line to the unmarked Xess Banmali who struck home with a reverse hit from 10 yards out.
The southern Cheetahs, who have mostly depended upon their penalty corner expertÂ Pakistan's Imran WarsiÂ to score got three set-piece opportunities within a ten-minute period in the second quarter.
The first one led to the second and on the last two occasions Mumbai captain Adrian DSouza foiled the powerful drag-flicks of Warsi.
While the Cheetahs made moves mostly down the left flank with good feeds from the midfield essayed by captain Brent Livermore and Vikram Pillay, with Adam Silnclair moving in dangerously down the left by-line, it was the Marines who struck off a counter attack in the 21st minute of play.
A quick move down the middle saw Sushil Topno free inside the circle and he was about to shoot when Cheetahs goalkeeperÂ C Santosh hooked his stick and the resultant penalty stroke award was converted by deep defender Ajmer Singh to give the Marines a 2-0 lead.
Cheetahs forced three more short corners in the remainder of the first half, off which DSouza saved two while Devinde Walmiki cleared the rebound off the third after his captain had blocked the drag-flick by Sunil Yadav when Warsi was off the field.
At half time the Marines led 2-0 and maintained that in a barren third quarter.
And the home team effectively buried the visitors semi final hopes in the last quarter with nine minutes left for the final hooter off a fine goal by Australian Troy Sutherland who first-timed the ball into the board off a lovely and long through ball from Devinder Walmiki.
Though Warsi finally succeeded with his drag-flick off the ninth penalty corner award for the Cheetahs, it was too late in the day to make any difference and to put the icing on the cake the Marines scored for the fourth time with just seconds left when Ekka sounded the board.
However, despite the victory, the marines finished last in the eight team league.