By losing their match to UP Wizards 2-3 at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, Lucknow, Dabang Mumbai did a favor to Delhi Waveriders. With 14 points from 9 matches, DM can, at best, reach 19 if they win their last game against the formidable Jaypee Punjab Warriors on February 19 at Mohali. On the other hand, with 23 points in their kitty, the Waveriders face no challenge now. They too have a home match remaining against UP Wizards but the outcome of that contest is more academic than consequential. UP Wizards earned 5 more points and jumped to the top of the table on Sunday after beating Dabang Mumbai team on their home turf. It was a great game, in which 5 goals were scored. Although Mumbai lost, they gave the Wizards a run for their money. On the same day, Delhi Waveriders lost to Kalinga Lancers in their home game. It has not been a great tournament for the defending champions as they have lost too many matches this season. But the fact that they are still in the fray is their only solace. After recording their first victory of the tournament only a few days ago, Kalinga Lancers have played marvelous hockey and ended their league matches with 3 victories. This amount to the same number of matches, as have been won by the semifinalist Delhi. Unfortunately, however, the Bhubaneswar team lost 6 matches as against 3 by Delhi. The 2015 Hero Hockey India League is now in the last stages with 3 league games remaining. After that, the knock-out stages will have two semifinals, a match for the third place and the Grand Finale on Sunday, February 22, 2015.
In Sunday’s first match at Lucknow, UPW had the home turf advantage against the visiting Dabang Mumbai. Early in the first quarter, UP Wizards had higher ball possession and launched some impressive raids at the Mumbai goal. But Mumbai also found some chances to make counter-moves. Though UP had a solid defense, Mumbai’s Vikas Pillay made a dangerous entry in UPW’s goal area in the 8th minute and sounded the board for a 1-0 lead over the Wizards. DM could have made it 2-0 but they squandered a penalty corner that came their way soon after they scored the first goal. First quarter ended with Mumbai leading 1-0. UPW began the second quarter in an attacking mode and prevented DM from enhancing their lead. In a promising 29th minute move, UPW’s Nithin Thimmaiah scored an impressive field goal and brought the scores level at 1-1 as the second quarter ended.
The Wizards dominated play in third quarter with higher ball-possession but failed to score despite several forays. UPW also wasted a penalty corner due to the lack of coordinated efforts. Meanwhile, Dabang Mumbai stole the show once again by an opportunistic touch by the mercurial Glenn Turner in the 44th minute, which foxed even the experienced Sreejesh and found the nets. The third quarter ended in Mumbai’s favor at 2-1. In the last quarter, UPW went all out at Mumbai goal but the visitors had fortified their defense. The Wizards, however kept trying and in the 53rd minute, Harjeet Singh sneaked in to score a superb field goal. With the scores level at 2-2 and a few minutes left in the match, it looked like another drawn game. However, Nikkin Thimmaiah came up with an incredible field goal in the 60th minute and UPW emerged 3-2 winners just as the buzzer sounded.
In the second match at Delhi, the first quarter’s play belonged to Delhi Waveriders. The home team had higher ball possession and they attacked KL’s goal area on several occasions. With two minutes left in the first quarter, Lancers earned a penalty corner but Gurjinder Singh couldn’t convert and the quarter ended goalless. In the second quarter, Lancers played an attacking game as well and kept the pressure. Minutes before the halftime, DW earned their first penalty corner but couldn’t utilize the opportunity but soon afterwards; DW’s Andrew Hayward made no mistake with the second penalty corner. The teams went to the breather with DW leading 1-0.
When they came back in the third quarter, Gurjinder was replaced by Glenn Simpson by KL’s coach. In 39th minute, KL wasted a penalty corner because Vickram Kanth failed to stop the ball cleanly. In the next minute, however, a miss-pass error from DW allowed Aron Zalewski to pounce on the ball and carry it all the way to the DW goal. This brilliant field goal drew the score level at 1-1. As KL entered the last quarter, Zalewski’s goal became a source of inspiration for Lancers and they capitalized on their solid play. KL scored the winning goal in the 49th minute, when Russel Ford made no mistake after receiving a pass in the D. After that, DW didn’t have much time to pull off any miracles. KL won the match 2-1, ending their 2015 Hero Hockey India League campaign on a winning note despite not making it to the semifinals.
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