Photo credit: Hockey India.
Lucknow: Delhi Waveriders continued their impressive run in the second edition of Hero Hockey India League as they beat Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-3 in a high-scoring match to extend their lead at the top of the points table.
The match at Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium here was expected to a be a exciting affair, especially after the two teams finished 1-1 in their previous encounter in New Delhi and it turned out to be one as it rained goals throughout the entire 70 minutes, much to the delight of the spectators.
The Sardar Singh-led Delhi Waveriders outfit, which finished runners-up in the inaugural HHIL last year, showed why they were considered as one of the pre-tournament favourites and pumped in as many as four goals in the opening 20 minutes to stun Uttar Pradesh Wizards and their home fans.
Delhi Waveriders opened the scoring in the eighth minute through a field goal by Talwinder Singh before Rupinderpal Singh (14th minute) converted a penalty corner six minutes later to take a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. The second quarter unfolded on similar lines as the Delhi Waveriders scored two more goals to extend their advantage.
Simon Child (19th, 20th minutes) scored two goals in a span of two minutes to rattle the home team. While the New Zealand striker's first goal came from a field effort, the next came via a penalty corner. Uttar Pradesh Wizards, however, did not give up hope and produced a spirited fightback to found the opposition net thrice in the last two quarters and keep themselves afloat in the match.
Nikkin Thimmaiah (30th minute) scored the first goal for the hosts from a field strike before skipper V R Raghunath (38th minute) converted a penalty corner eight minutes later as the Uttar Pradesh Wizards went into the final quarter trailing by 2-4.
Legendary Dutchman Teun de Nooijer scored another field goal for Uttar Pradesh Wizards to bring back life into the match. Thereafter, the hosts pressed hard for the equaliser with persistent attacks but Delhi Waveriders defence stood tall like a rock to ensure full five points from the game.
The win consolidated Delhi Waveriders position at the top of the standings with 29 points from eight games, while Uttar Pradesh Wizards continued to occupy the fourth spot on 15 points from six matches. In their next match Delhi Waveriders will play defending champions Ranchi Rhinos at their home ground in New Delhi on February 12, while Uttar Pradesh Wizards will host debutants Kalinga Lancers at the same venue here tomorrow.
Speaking about the performance of his players, Delhi Waveriders head coach Cedric D'Souza said, "It was a tight match today. The team played extremely well in the first half but somehow we let the guards down in the second half. "We even lost too much possession of the ball and the opponent punished us for it. But yes finally we won and it's a happy moment for us."
Delhi Waveriders captain Sardar Singh said, "Leading 4 goals to 1 in the first half gave us a lot of confidence. The plan was to continue in the same manner in the 2nd half but Uttar Pradesh Wizards came back in the second half. We did try to contain them but second half was different. It was a good game today and happy we won."
Uttar Pradesh Wizards coach Roelant Oltmans said, "There were gaps in our defense in the beginning which gave Delhi Waveriders the lead. We tried to come back in the second half but by that time it was too late."