Jaypee Punjab Warriors continued their impressive run and came from a goal down to beat defending champions Delhi Waveriders 3-1 and register their third consecutive win in the Hero Hockey India League in Delhi on Friday.
Down by a goal till the first three quarters, it took a spirited fightback from the Warriors to maintain their winning streak, pumping in three goals in the fourth and final quarter through Christopher Ciriello (50th minute), SV Sunil (54th) and Affan Yousuf (56th) at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
The Waveriders, however, were first to break the deadlock through Simon Child’s field strike in the third minute.
The match started on a sizzling pace with both the teams creating opportunities from the word go.
But it was the Waveriders who struck early through Child’s superb strike.
Child deflected in a fantastic diving goal after being set up by Akashdeep Singh’s pass from the left flank.
Stung by the early goal, Punjab went on the attack but failed to find the back of opposition net as the first quarter ended with Delhi enjoying a slender lead.
Punjab Warriors continued to mount attack on the Delhi defence in the second quarter and in the process managed to equalise through Malak Singh. But the Waveriders went for the referral for an infringement and the goal was overturned as the hosts managed to maintain their one-goal lead at the halfway mark.
After the change of ends, the Warriors looked far more threatening as the Waveriders went on the defensive and managed to hold on to their lead at the end of the third quarter.
But Waveriders’ defensive tactics completely backfired in the final 15 minutes of the match as the Punjab outfit mounted tremendous pressure on the home team’s defence with continuous raids.
After wasting three penalty corners earlier, the Punjab Warriors finally managed to utilise their fourth set piece when Ciriello scored with a fierce dragflick to the right of Delhi custodian Erasmus Pieterse in the 50th minute.
The Warriors soon earned another penalty corner and it took a fine save from Pieterse to deny Varun Kumar’s variation.
But four minutes later, the Delhi defence was once again caught napping by the Warriors frontline when Sunil scored with a powerful slap shot from top of the circle that beat Pieterse all ends up.
If that was not enough, an unmarked Yousuf registered his name in the scoresheet two minutes later when he finished off a Augustin Mazzilli move with a reverse flick to dash Waveriders any hopes of a comeback.
The win consolidated Punjab’s position at the top of the table with 17 points from four games, while the Waveriders slumped to their first defeat after having registered two consecutive draws.
In Sunday’s double header, the Waveriders will face debutants Dabang Mumbai at the same venue, while Punjab Warriors will play Kalinga Lancers in Bhubaneswar.