For a few moments, Rajpal Singh rolled back the years. Positioned near the half line on the left blank, the former India captain received a ball from Rupinderpal Singh. Rajpal trapped cleanly — his first touch had disappointed him so far this evening — turned and with a sudden burst of energy, darted towards the Mumbai Magicians goal.
Not so long ago, his electric heels had tormented several defences. But fallout with the administrators and subsequent association with the breakaway World Series Hockey cut short his India career. On Saturday, he showed what he is still capable of as the Mumbai defenders were unable to keep up with the blinding pace. He laid the ball off for Jason Wilson at the byline and finished off the move with a diving effort, slotting home the return pass past PR Sreejesh.
It wasn’t for the first time that Mumbai were unable to handle the Rajpal-Wilson combination. In the 12th minute, the duo came together again to give Delhi Waveriders a 2-1 lead. Barring the two goals, Rajpal had a pretty average game. But the twin strikes came at crucial junctures in the match, when the hosts looked like staging a comeback, and eventually helped his side post a commanding 5-3 win in their final league outing against the bottom-placed side at the Mahindra Stadium on Saturday.
The win cemented Delhi Waveriders’s position at the top of the table. More importantly, by finishing their league stage commitment with a victory, Delhi have ensured they carry the momentum into next Saturday’s semifinal.
Delhi ticked almost all boxes on the offensive front – they were quick in counter attacks, incisive with build-up play in the attacking third and scored from penalty corner (Rupinderpal Singh) as well. Sardar Singh, as always, was flawless along with New Zealander Simon Child and Australian Matt Ghodes. Together, they controlled the flow of the game. Akashdeep Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki — both found back of the net — and Gurbaj Singh too were impressive.
However, the table-toppers were caught napping defensively on a couple of occasions which nearly cost them the win. Mumbai have lacked teeth up front this season. But they came up with an improved performance against Delhi, perhaps their most cohesive so far, and took advantage of their tired opponents. Glenn Turner scored twice for Mumbai and provided an assist to Timothy Deavin for the third. .
Sandeep wins it for punjab
Mohali: BEFORE the beginning of the second edition of HIL, Punjab Warriors coach Barry Dancer had shared how the poor conversion rate of penalty corners had affected his team’s chances in the first season of the league. The inclusion of drag-flicker Sandeep Singh seems to have sorted that problem out for them this season. Out of the 27 goals scored by the team, nine have come from penalty corners with Sandeep scoring six of them.
Apart from coming up with goals, Sandeep has emerged as a vital cog in the team’s defence. In their match against Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Sandeep was in top form, scoring once and making a couple of good saves in the team’s 2-1 win. Not only did he keep Teun de Nooijer out, Sandeep also showed his creative streak, setting up two clear chances for Simon Orchard and Shivedra Singh to score goals.
Coming into their match, Punjab Warriors had managed just one win against Uttar Pradesh Wizards in five matches spread across both the seasons of the league. Captain Jamie Dwyer tried setting the record straight, as he gave the home side the lead despite the Wizards having most of the possession in the first half. The Wizards clearly missed VR Raghunath, their top scorer, who was rested for the match.
It was Sandeep, however, that proved the difference on the day. From the two penalty corners that were awarded to Punjab on Saturday, Sandeep managed to convert one from a rebound after his shot had hit keeper Srinivas Rao Katharu. The goal gave the side a 2-0 lead. Even though Hugo Reid pulled one back one for Wizards, the Punjab defenders, specially Sandeep, to ensure a spot in the last four.