At Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, New Delhi, host Delhi Waveriders defeated Ranchi Rays 2-0. The victory is significant since it took Delhi’s point tally to 22 from 8 matches. Now there is no way Kalinga Lancers can qualify for the semifinal with its 16 points from 9 matches. Even if the Bhubaneswar based team win their last match, they can at best reach 21, which would not be enough. Dabang Mumbai are still in fray with 14 points from 8 matches and if they win both their matches they could earn 24 points. But Mumbai have a chance only if Delhi lose both their matches. That appears unlikely and as of today, Delhi Waveriders stand the best chance of clinching the last semifinal berth. The game at Delhi on Saturday was played at frenetic pace with Delhi showing tremendous control and endurance. The home team did not leave any gaps for Ranchi to sneak in. Delhi scored once in second and fourth quarters and defended themselves well throughout. The tone for Delhi’s victory was set by a spectacular field goal from Lloyd Norris Jones in the 26th minute and that lead continued until Aakashdeep Singh produced another stellar goal seven minutes from the buzzer. Next up for Delhi is another home game tomorrow against UP Wizards, if they win that game, they will be in the semifinal of the Hero Hockey India League 2015 straightaway.
Delhi Waveriders began the first quarter with a solid game plan against the visitors from Ranchi. But soon the team from Ranchi took the ball possession from Delhi. Though Delhi’s defense was under pressure, they did not yield their ground. During one such raid, Waveriders conceded a penalty corner. However, RR failed to convert the chance as the straight hit was nicely saved by DW’s German goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi. The first quarter ended goalless despite RR making several attempts on the Delhi goal.
Delhi played a much stronger game in the second quarter, reversing the first-quarter trend and keeping the ball with them at most times. Delhi captain Sardar Singh looked off-color but his colleagues compensated by resorting to a coordinated display with pin-point passes. These industrious efforts paid off; when their South African recruit Norris-Jones managed a beautiful field goal to put DW 1-0 ahead in the 26th minute of the match.
In the third quarter, both sides concentrated on defending their goals and blunted the attacks launched on each other. They both earned a penalty corner each in this quarter but the chances were not utilized. The stand-out performance in the third quarter came from RR’s goalkeeper Tyler Lovell, who stopped some dangerous attempts made by DW forwards. Of particular mention was Lovell saving a menacing drag flick by DW’s Rupinder Pal Singh, who tried to convert a penalty corner. With perfect anticipation, Lovell stuck his leg out in the manner of an acrobat and made a stunning save. Despite attacks and counter attacks by both sides, the third quarter was goalless with DW keeping their halftime 1-0 lead intact.
The ball possession in the last quarter fluctuated from one side to another as RR tried to make a comeback into the game. But solid Delhi defense did not afford them any chances. Just when it looked that this quarter would also end goalless, DW’s Akashdeep Singh came with an amazing effort in the 53rd minute by faultlessly netting a goal from an acute angle. It was a stupendous finish by young Akashdeep and it doubled DW’s lead to 2-0. There wasn’t much time afterwards for RR to come back and spoil Delhi’s party.