New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Wizards finished their league engagements in the Hero Hockey India League on a high, beating league toppers Delhi Waveriders 4-1 at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi.
By handing Waveriders their first defeat of the tournament, Wizards ensured that they would avoid AK Bansal’s boys in the semis. Wizards finished third in the league, and would take on second placed Ranchi Rhinos in the semis. Waveriders would face fourth placed Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the other semi-final.
It turned out to be one of the rare matches in the tournament where there were no goals scored in the first half. However, the game was not dull by any means in the first two quarters. Waveriders’ skipper Sardar Singh made some good moves from the midfield, and made an excellent pass to Akashdeep Singh in the second quarter, although Akashdeep was unable to stop the ball.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4 (Jerone Hertzberger 39, S Uthappa 49, P Somanna 56 M Gunasekar 64) bt Delhi Waveriders 1 (Andy Hayward 64)
HERO Goal of the Day: Pradhan Somanna
Man-of-the-Match: Jerone Hertzberger
There were quite a few chances created by both teams in the second quarter, although none of the moves resulted in a goal. Jerone Hertzberger had the first clear opportunity on goal for Wizards, with a strong reverse hit from right flank, but the Waiveriders’ goalie was up to the task, getting down quickly and kicking the ball out. The likes of Gurbaj Singh, Jeneskins worked hard and entered the Wizards’ circle on a few occasions, but were denied by an alert defence.
The best chance of the first half went to Wizards, right at the end of the second quarter, as they earned a penalty corner in the final minute. The execution wasn’t up to the mark though, as a couple of Wizards; players collided while taking the drag flick, and the weak shot was comfortably stopped by the Waveriders’ goalkeeper Jacobi.
The game really came to life in the third quarter, with Wizards scoring early. Jerone Hertzberger showed brilliant skills to control a long, hard hit on the top of the Waveriders’ circle. He then dribbled past a couple of Delhi defenders, and that smacked a ferocious reverse hit, giving the Delhi goalkeeper no chance to react.
Things got from bad to worse for the Waveriders, as a mess up in the defence cost them a second goal. Nitin Thimmiah collected a good pass to enter the Delhi circle, and was set to take a reverse hit. Jacobi came out charging of his goal to cut down on the angle, but ended up colliding into his own defender. Uthappa collected the ball and pushed it in the empty goal to put the visitors 2-0 ahead.
It seemed like Waveriders had pulled one back, when Akashdeep Singh found the net. The referee, however, had already blown the whistle as there were two balls on the pitch.
Wizards sealed the result in their favour in the final quarter, when Nitin Thimmaiah gave a superb pass to an unmarked P Somanna. In a one on one situation with a charging Jacobi, Somanna smacked the ball over the goalie’s left shoulder in to the net.
Waveriders earned first of their three back to back penalty corners in the 62nd minute. First one was not stopped properly, second one was stopped by the rusher. Third one found the back of the net though, with Andy Hayward making no mistake with his drag flick. Wizards scored in the next minute through Gunasekar, to shut Waveriders out of the game once again.
Delhi Waveriders skipper Sardar Singh said that their team played bit easy today due to that Uttar Pradesh Wizards won the match. “Our experienced players were give rest today and we gave chance to new players. We can accept the defeat due to our easy game but the huge margin of the defeat was very disappointing for us. This defeat is an eye-opener for us before the semi-finals. We will focus on our mistakes and perform better,” he added at the post-match press conference.