Hockey India League 2015On Wednesday February 11, 2015, Uttar Pradesh Wizards emerged as the third team to secure a semifinal berth in the Hero Hockey India League 2015. After a goalless first quarter, UPW produced a charged-up display and took the game away from Mumbai’s grasp. Beginning with a brilliant first field goal from Ramandeep Singh late in the second quarter, UPW pushed the pedal and left DM agape with a 5-1 runaway victory. With their impressive triumph in the away-game, Uttar Pradesh Wizards have now joined Jaypee Punjab Warriors and Ranchi Rays in the round-of-four. The team coached by the legendary Roelant Oltmans clearly stood out with a strategic game and watered down the aspirations of Dabang Mumbai to make it to the knock-out phase. To rub further salt into their wounds, Dabang Mumbai Head Coach Valentin Altenburg was handed a one-match suspension by the tournament Disciplinary Committee. Altenburg was seen as wrongly raising disputes over the umpiring and other official decisions during the course of the match yesterday. Valentin Altenburg has been banned from sitting in DM’s next match with Kalinga Lancers on February 13 at Bhubaneswar.

The first quarter of the match at Mumbai began promisingly for both teams in terms of equal ball possession and the number of D-penetrations. The teams attempted to pressurize each other but the defense on either side proved strong as the quarter ended 0-0. The beginning of the second quarter looked similar but UPW had a sharp chance in the 15th minute, when VR Raghunath sent a cross for Gunasekar, who failed to get the touch. UPW’s first strike came in a brilliant fashion in the 27th minute, when Ramandeep Singh received a pass in the D. The India forward cool-headedly got past three defenders and struck hard to put his team ahead 1-0. The goal spurred the pace of the game and not to be outdone; Dabang Mumbai earned a penalty corner in the very next minute. But star drag-flicker Tom Boon could not innovate and his attempt on the goal was saved by Raghunath. Immediately after that, UPW also earned a penalty corner but Raghunath’s strike fell wide off the goal. No more goals accrued in the second quarter and the score remained 1-0 at halftime.

The third quarter saw a flurry of activity from both teams as the pace quickened. In the 34th minute, Ramadeep Singh moved up quickly and sent a lovely cross for Nikkin Thimmaaiah in front of the goal. Thimmaaiah was not found wanting as he sounded the board without losing a second. UPW now attacked the DM goal area with ferociousness and enhanced their lead to 3-0 in the 42nd minute, when Bob de Voogd entered the circle in a rush and struck cleanly first-time with the reverse stick. Voogd’s movement was so quick that it gave no time for Adrian D’souza to react. By this time, the game had become too faced-paced and Mumbai also earned a penalty corner soon after the third goal from UPW. While Mumbai missed the penalty corner with the strike, the rebound was collected by Jeremy Hayward, who didn’t miss out on the golden chance. After reducing the deficit by one goal, Mumbai tried to find their foothold but UPW came up with another goal in the 45th minute. It came through a brilliant piece of work by Bob de Voogd, who simply outfoxed the Mumbai custodian by another reverse stick shot into the goal. For UPW, it was a great third quarter, which ended 4-1 in their favor. When the teams entered the fourth quarter, UPW continued the onslaught. They mounted another attack on Mumbai’s goal and earned a penalty corner in the 51st minute. This time, Raghunath did not miss and UPW enhanced their lead to 5-1. In the very next minute, Mumbai also earned a penalty corner but Tom Boon failed to convert once again.

In the end, it was a superb victory for UPW and more importantly for them; it secured them a place in the semifinals of the Hero Hockey India League 2015. UPW now have 25 points from 8 matches and they are third behind JPW and RR in the Laegue’ Points Tally. Coach Roelant Oltmans was highly pleased with the performance of his boys. The two teams will face once again in Lucknow on Sunday and the UPW Coach was confident of winning that game too.