Delhi Waveriders should have used their match against Kalinga Lancers on Thursday to inch closer to the last semifinal spot. Instead, the defending champions made a heavy weather of the game in the beginning and slipped to a 0-2 deficit within the first 20 minutes. Later, they somehow managed to force a draw against the bottom-placed team in the tournament. The drawn game however has brought some setback for Kalinga Lancers since they have only 11 points from 8 matches. From 7 matches, Delhi Waveriders have 17 points while Dabang Mumbai have 12. The system of allotting points in the Hero Hockey India League is such that theoretically Kalinga Lancers can still make it to the semis if they win both of their remaining matches and Delhi and Mumbai suffer more setbacks. In any case, the fight for the last semifinal spot is not over yet and any one of the three teams can lay their claim. On Thursday, playing on their home turf of the Kalinga Stadium at Bhubaneswar, the hosts surrendered the early advantage as some heroic efforts from Delhi brought the match to a 2-2 draw in the end.
The first quarter began with Delhi making a spirited attack on the KL goal but Yuvraj Walmiki fumbled in the D after running smartly all the way. Next minute, it was KL’s Lucas Vila, who literally emulated Walmiki’s feat but he didn’t falter as he fired the first goal for his side’s 3rd minute 1-0 lead. Spurred by the early strike, KL began dominating with more raids on DW’s goal area but goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi foiled most such attempts by KL forwards with his superbly athletic performance and perfect saves. The first quarter ended 1-0 in home team’s favor. In the second quarter, the pace of the game continued at an upper keel and KL came up with another goal in the 20th minute, when Vikas Sharma doubled KL’s tally to 2-0. The two-goal deficit pushed Delhi on the back-foot as the reigning champions struggled to find their form. The KL team, however, came up with a commendable effort after six consecutive losses. Summoning up all their reserves, DW forced a penalty corner in the 27th minute and succeeded in reducing the deficit to 2-1 through a clean drag flick by Andrew Hayward. The teams switched ends at halftime with KL still leading 2-1.
In the third quarter, KL were seen intent in fortifying their defense as DW went all out to secure the much-needed equalizer. It was the Lancers, who won a penalty corner with six minutes remaining in the quarter but they couldn’t convert the chance. The teams marched into the last quarter at the same score of 2-1. The last 15 minutes of the match were action-packed as DW faced defeat from the tournament’s weakest team. There were attacks from both sides and Delhi earned two penalty corners but both chances could not be converted. As the game neared the end it looked as if KL could emerge the winner but two minutes from the buzzer, DW’s Talwinder Singh suddenly sneaked into the KL D and managed to deflect the ball to the goal and made it 2-2 in the match.
The contest for the fourth semifinal spot continues and Kalinga Lancers, Delhi Waveriders and Dabang Mumbai are still in the fray. From now onwards, they need to play their remaining matches to their full potential and sense of purpose to join Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Ranchi Rays and UP Wizards in the semifinals.
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