Playing brilliant hockey in back-to-back league matches at home, Kalinga Lancers first held off Delhi Waveriders to a 2-2 draw on Thursday and then pulled off a memorable 2-1 victory over Dabang Mumbai at the Kalinga Stadium on Friday. This was Lancers’ last league game at home and they were cheered raucously all the way by die-hard home fans, who packed every nook and cranny of the stadium at Bhubaneswar. Both sides made a spirited start and looked for goal-scoring chances throughout the match. After the first quarter, KL dominated the proceedings in the second with fine stick-work and led 2-0 at halftime. In the third fourth quarters, Mumbai played superbly but their stellar performance could only reduce the deficit by a single goal and they ended losing the match 2-1. The hero of KL’s victory on Friday was India star Gurjinder Singh, who scored twice from penalty corners. In addition, Gurjinder stood like a rock in Lancers’ defense and foiled many promising attempts at the KL goal by Mumbai forwards. KL’s victory was also a sweet revenge for their loss against Mumbai last week by the same margin. DM’s Harmanpreet Singh cut the deficit by one goal but tight defense from KL ensured that Mumbai scored no further goals until the end. In the points tally now, KL occupies the fifth spot ahead of Dabang Mumbai with 16 points from 9 matches while Dabang Mumbai have slipped to the bottom with 13 points from 8 matches. Even now the last semifinal spot is undecided and by a mathematical probability any team can still take it. However, with three matches remaining for them and 17 points in their bag, Delhi Waveriders have the best chance. Kalinga Lancers play their last league game against Waveriders on Sunday night at Delhi.
The first quarter began with Dabang Mumabi raiding Lancers’ goal and earning the first penalty corner within 3 minutes from start. But the chance was wasted as Australian star Jeremy Hayward failed to convert. Very soon, KL began coordinating much better and pushed Mumbai on the defensive. In the 11th minute, KL’s Vickram Kanth earned a penalty corner for his team and taking the shot, Gurjinder Singh successfully converted the chance. One minute later, Mumbai also got a penalty corner, their second, but they failed to convert yet again. While KL went 1-0 up, Gurjinder’s goal also marked the 100th goal of the Hero Hockey India League 2015. The first quarter ended with KL leading 1-0. In the second quarter, Lancers came up with even better performance and pressurized Mumbai defense further. With mesmerizing stick-work and sweet-looking passes, they posed a threat on the Mumbai goal several times. KL’s hard work earned them another penalty corner in the 20th minute and once again, Gurjinder was on target to double the lead for his team. Kalinga Lancers continued to dominate play in the rest of the second quarter but missed some close goal-scoring chances. Mumbai also missed a golden chance, when captain V Vinay failed to tap a booming cross from Glenn Turner. The teams went for a breather with the score of 2-0 in favor of KL.
Beginning with the third quarter, the teams reverted to a strategic play with enhanced emphasis on defense. Dabang Mumbai raised the level of their game but KL defenders came in their way. In the 36th minute, however, Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty corner for Dabang Mumbai and reduced the deficit to 2-1. Spurred by Harmanpreet’s goal, Mumbai launched fresh attacks on KL’s goal but could not find the equalizer. Early in fourth quarter, Glenn Turner led DM and made some threatening attempts at KL’s goal. Turner even earned a penalty corner for his team but once again, it could not be converted. Despite dominating the play in the closing stages, Mumbai could not find the elusive goal and Kalinga Lancers ended the day with a 2-1 victory over the visitors.