In third week of the ongoing CIL Hockey India League, Dabang Mumbai scored their second victory against UP Wizards at Lucknow on Saturday February 6. Coming close on the heels of their first win on February 3 against Ranchi Rays, the triumph over UP lends some optimism to Mumbai for a semifinal berth. Although, they are still at the bottom of points’ table, Mumbai still have 4 games left and a winning performance can catapult them into last four. Earlier on Thursday, UP Wizards had shocked Jaypee Punjab Warriors with a 3-0 win. Kalinga Lancers played two matches in week 3, won the first 4-0 on February 5 against Delhi Wave-riders but lost a home tie 1-4 to Punjab at Bhubaneswar. When the fourth week begins on Monday February 8, only 10 matches will remain in league phase until February 17. Every team will be focused on bringing out the best performance. Meanwhile, Ranchi Rays captain Ashley Jackson feels that counting field goal as 2 is a counter-productive measure, since the focus shifts on excessive defending. Teams tend to avoid field goals scored against them and free play suffers. Jackson hopes that the HIL rule is not extended at global level in the best interests of hockey.
After two back-to-back victories, Dabang Mumbai have reached a stage, from where they can count on their entry to the semifinals with winning results in their remaining 4 games. Mumbai take on Delhi on February 9, Punjab on February 12, Ranchi on February 14 and UP on February 16. After beating Ranchi in the home game last Wednesday, Mumbai played against UP Wizards at Lucknow on Saturday February 6. Mumbai took a 2-0 lead in 8th minute, when Johan Bjorkmann deflected a well-struck shot from Roshan Minz even as PR Sreejesh came out charging. Wizards pulled one goal back in the 15th minute, when Argentinian Gonzalo Peillat converted a penalty corner. These 3 first-quarter goals were the only scores in the whole match and Mumbai won 2-1.
Two days earlier on February 4, UP Wizards scored a 3-0 victory over Jaypee Punjab Warriors at Chandigarh. It was a thrilling game, in which first two quarters remained goalless and the first strike came from Wizards’ Akashdeep Singh with one minute left in the third. Australian Jamie Dwyer initiated a move and the ball finally came to Akashdeep. The India international shot home to put UP Wizards 2-0 ahead. Punjab kept fighting but couldn’t convert their chances. Wizards made it 3-0 in the 60th minute, when Gonzalo Peillat converted a penalty corner.
On February 5, Kalinga Lancers won their home tie against Delhi Wave-riders 4-0 to move on the top of the table with 22 points. Though Ranchi Rays also had 22 points, they lag behind Lancers on goal-difference. Lancers benefitted from a double strike by Australian Glenn Turner, who scored two field goals to inflict the third straight defeat for Delhi. The first goal came in 6th minute, when Turner barged in the D and managed to tuck the goal between the legs of Wave-riders’ onrushing goalkeeper Devon Manchester. After a goalless second quarter, Wave-riders launched attacks in the third but couldn’t find the equalizer. Despite opportunities for both teams, the third quarter also ended goalless. In the fourth, both sides played attacking hockey but goalkeepers at either end foiled the opponents’ moves. In the 56th minute, it was once again Glenn Turner, who used Malak Singh’s deflection in shooting through and lancers finished with a 4-0 win.
On Sunday February 7, however, Kalinga Lancers had the taste of their own medicine, when they were defeated 1-4 by Punjab Warriors. In a high-octane match, both teams attached one another in a goalless first quarter. Lancers went into a defensive mode in second quarter while Punjab attacked and earned two penalty corners in quick succession. However, brilliant saves by Lancers’ goalkeeper Andrew Charter resulted in another goalless quarter. In third quarter, both sides pushed hard, but it was Lancers, who got the first goal in 42nd minute, when Glenn Turner converted a penalty corner. Everything transformed in the last quarter by two field goals from Punjab. Simon Orchard was the first to strike in 48th minute and Punjab took a 2-1 lead. That changed to 4-1 in the 58th, when Satbir Singh shot neatly. With that victory, Punjab has moved to the second position in overall standings behind Kalinga Lancers, while Ranchi Rays have dropped to the third spot.
Meanwhile, Ranchi Rays’ British star Ashley Jackson had expressed his reservation on the rule of counting field goals as two. As per Jackson, the rule pushes the game into excessive defending, when one team takes lead on field goals. The Briton is not in favor of extending the HIL experiment to international matches.