Uttar Pradesh Wizards eked out a dramatic 8-6 victory over Kalinga Lancers in a high-scoring thriller with two goals coming in the final minute as the fourth edition of Hockey India League made a sensational start under new field goal rules.
It was goals galore in the inaugural match of the tournament, which produced seven field goals and a big crowd as the Kalinga Stadium enjoyed every moment of the game.
With an aim to make it more exciting for the fans, the organisers had introduced the innovative rule of one field goal counting as two so as to encourage and reward more such strikes. Goals from penalty corners are counted as one as usual.
All the goals scored today were field goals and the crowd could not have asked for a better start to the tournament, though the home supporters would have been disappointed as their team lost today.
Fortunes fluctuated in the edge-of-the-seat match with the Wizards 4-2 up at the end of the first quarter before the Lancers made a remarkable recovery to lead 6-4 till the final minute.
Just as it seemed that the home side would run away with a come-from-behind victory, the Wizards struck two field goals in the final minute to win the match in dramatic fashion.
Wouter Jolie (9th minute), who scored the first field goal of the HIL, Kenneth Bain (14th), Edward Ockenden (60th) and Akashdeep Singh (60th) struck for the Wizards, while Pardeep Mor (15th) and Glenn Turner (29th and 37th) found the target for the Lancers.
There was also some dramatic moments towards the close as Wizards captain V R Raghunath missed a penalty stroke three minutes before the final hooter and his side were trailing 4-6 at that time.
It looked like the Wizards have lost the match with their skipper’s blunder but they regrouped immediately and scored twice to win the game.
Dutchman Wouter Jolie scored the first field goal under the new rule as he struck in the ninth minute before teammate Kenny Bain scored another in the 14th minute to give the Wizards 4-0 up.
Egged on by the partisan crowd, the Lancers recovered in a remarkable fashion to score the next three goals of the match.
Pardeep Mor pulled one field goal back for the Lancers in the 15th minute with a clever scoop over Wizards and India goalie P R Sreejesh. The home side then drew parity in the 29th minute via an intelligent deflected field goal by Turner.
At the half time, the scoreline was tied at 4-4 and Turner gave Lancers the lead for the first time in the match with another spectacular field goal in the 37th minute.
In the final quarter, the Lancers were leading 6-4 but the Wizards were given a lifeline as they got a penalty stroke in the 57th minute after Gurjinder Singh fouled Akashdeep Singh inside home side’s striking circle. But, the Wizards captain and India drag-flicker Raghunath shot it wide to waste the chance.
It looked like the match would end in Lancers’ favour but it was not to be as the Wizards scored twice in the final minute. Ockenden first made it 6-6 before Akashdeep sent a powerful reverse hit to the Lancers’ net to make it 8-6 for the Wizards.
Earlier, a glittering opening ceremony preceded the inaugural match with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in attendance as the chief guest. Local celebrities performed to enthral the audience before Patnaik was introduced to the match officials and the captains of the two teams.
The opening ceremony began with a performance by Be-Bop aerobatic dancers. It was followed by dance performance on popular Bollywood numbers from Archita and Sabyasachi Mishra.