Delhi Waveriders survived an anxious last few minutes to defeat Mumbai Magicians 2-1 and consolidate their lead at the top of the inaugural Hero Hockey India League with 10 points from two encounters.
The hosts, who had beaten Jaypee Punjab Warriors in their tournament opener, dominated the game against the Magicians for the first three quarters at the Major DhyanChand National Stadium but their profligacy in front of the opposition goal almost came back to haunt them in the dying minutes.
Despite a penalty corner conversion by Rupinder Pal Singh (27) and a fine goal by South African Lloyd Norris-Jones (48), the Delhi Waveriders could have ended up dropping three points had the upright not come to their rescue in the last minute.
The Magicians had earned a penalty stroke in the last minute after a Sandeep Singh drag-flick hit a defender. However, the Mumbai captain could only hit the upright and the ball was diverted outside to the relief of the Delhi team and their supporters.
Sandeep had earlier scored the team’s only goal off a penalty corner in the 50th minute and could have been the hero for his team, which took the fight to their opposition in the last quarter.
“It was plain bad luck that we missed the penalty stroke. We played well in the second half and will take the positives into the next game,” said Sandeep.
Earlier, the hosts began their second outing exactly from where they left in the opening encounter – going for an all out attack strategy while their opponents were willing to sit back and settle down.
The Waveriders got their first opportunity to take the lead in the 11th minute when Lorris-Jones Llyod had to only manage a touch off Akashdeep Singh’s cross but the South African misjudged the speed of the cross.
Norris was once again the culprit five minutes later when he charged through the left inside Mumbai’s striking circle but could not beat the advancing P Sreejesh in a one-on-one situation.
However, the constant pressure bore fruit in the 27th minute when Gurwinder Singh Chandi was brought down inside the striking circle and penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh gave his team the lead in the second attempt.
Their New Zealand striker Simon Child could have doubled their lead in the 38th minute but the Kiwi mistimed his shot on empty goal after Chandi had pulled the goalkeeper out of position.
Norris Jones finally managed to find the second for Delhi with a close range shot in the 48th minute. A minute later Sandeep Singh scored his opening goal of the tournament on the Magicians’ second penalty corner to set up a scintillating final quarter.
Mumbai Magicians’ coach Ric Charlesworth said that their team’s midfield is bit weak but still the players gave their best. “Umpire gave a wrong decision in the first corner, which cost us the match,” he stated at the post-match press conference. Skipper Sandeep Singh said that despite of weak midfield, the Team played well. “We played well in this match and we were close to drew it but umpire’s decision went against us,” he added.
AK Bansal, coach of Delhi Waveriders, said that the Waveriders are playing extremely well in these two matches, said: “Our Team has gelled well and the coordination is very good, which resulted good passes. The only area to concern is handling pressure after conceding goals. We are working on that and we will surely overcome this flaw.”
Bansal further added: “Gaining full points from these two victories have improved the team spirit, and the team is mentally to take on any challenge in the future. We are playing modern hockey and its working really well for”.
The Hero Hockey India League is organised by Hockey India with official sanction from the International Hockey Federation (FIH). The inaugural season is being played from January 14 to February 10, 2013 in a home-and-away format. The five franchisee-based teams, consisting of the top hockey players from India and around the world, will compete for the prestigious trophy. Hero Motocorp Ltd. is the Title Sponsor of the league while Airtel is the Associate Sponsor. Star Sports, who is the Broadcast Partner, will be telecasting all matches live.
Delhi Waveriders 2 (Rupinder Pal Singh 27, Lloyd Norris-Jones 48)
Mumbai Magicians 1 (Sandeep Singh 50)
Man of the Match: Sardar Singh
Hero Goal of the Match: Llyod Norris Jones
Delhi Waveriders 5; Mumbai Magicians 1