Hosts Delhi Waveriders launched their campaign in the Hero Hockey India League with a comfortable 2-1 victory over Jaypee Punjab Warriors at the Major Dhyanchand National stadium here on Monday.
Germany’s Oskar Deecke (14th min) and Gurwinder Singh Chandi (22nd) found the net for the winners while Australian Keiran Govers (42nd) scored the consolation goal for the visitors.
Before the tournament opener, a laser show light up the Delhi sky and the spectators witnessed a special performance from figure skaters Alifya and Yuri and daredevil stunts of Jeenea set the tempo for the inaugural edition of the tournament and the sizeable crowd at the National stadium was hoping for a quality encounter in the opening match of the inaugural edition of Hero HIL and the teams did not disappoint.
The match began at a very high tempo with the hosts squandering a goal scoring opportunity in the very first minute.
With the Punjab Warriors pushing hard in their very first attacking move, the field was open for a an counterattack and Waveriders New Zealand forward Simon Child had just the goalkeeper to beat but he wasn’t that sharp to pounce on the opportunity despite taking three shots at goal.
Both the teams then tried to settle in the rhythm and it was the hosts who drew first blood in the 14th minute when Child began a move from the left and German international Oskar Deecke’s reverse hit was deflected inside the goal off the stick of a Warrior defender.
The Waveriders had an opportunity to double the lead in the 20th minute when Gaganpreet Singh’s harsh tackle on Child handed them their first penalty corner but Rupinder Pal Singh’s drag flick failed to beat the goalkeeper.
However, they had to wait just two minutes to find the second goal. India international Gurwinder Singh Chandi made a probing run from outside the 25 yards line on the right and his hit towards the goal was deflected in by the stick of Warrior defender Mark Knowles of Australia.
The hosts were obviously the dominating team in the second quarter but Rupinder could not convert the two penalty corners on the stroke on half time that could have given his team an almost unassailable lead.
The change of sides seemed to have woken up the Warriors as they began showing more intent in their attack and they were rewarded in the 42nd minute when S V Sunil broke through the right and Australian Keiran Govers showed his prowess in the box with a reverse hit in the top left hand corner.
The Warriors were indebted to their custodian Jaap Stockmann of Netherlands to have kept them in the hunt with almost half a dozen good saves but their forward line failed to make any clear breakthroughs inside the Delhi goal. Stockmann was adjudged Man-of-the-Match of the first match.
Jaypee Punjab Warriors’ coach Barry Dancer said at the post-match press conference that the team’s performance was not up to the mark and needs more improvement but said: “The team had better coordination and saw a much better performance in the second half. I am sure that the team will bounce back in the next match.”
Man-of-the-Match Stockmann Jacob believes that the team was really unlucky in the first half and lacked coordination. “Having played our first match as a team there was bound to be some confusion, we require much more practice and need to play together some more. But the team quickly learnt from the first half and performed far better in the second scoring a goal. We are sure to improve our performance in our next games,” he added.
On the other hand, Delhi Waveriders coach Ajay Kumar Bansal was excited with their current performance and feels that they have overshot their expectations by scoring two goals in the opening game. “The team was really positive and we have a lot to take back from this game. We have some areas to improve such as defence and are sure to come back as a much better team next game. We are really happy with the crowd today and thank all our supporters,” stated the only Indian coach in the Hero HIL at the post-match press conference.
Skipper Sardar Singh was very satisfied as the teams planning and execution was in sync today and said: “The first game is always crucial for the teams’ moral and we executed our roles well emerging victorious. Having played for a short span together we are really satisfied with our performance.”
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.
Man of the Match: Jaap Stockmann (JPW)
Hero Goal of the Match: Oscar Deecke (DWR)