The progress of Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors during the early stages of the second edition of the Hero Hockey India League was rather similar till Friday’s game at the National Stadium in New Delhi. Both teams had knocked over the rookie Kalinga Lancers. The Waveriders blanked the Lancers 5-0 at home on Thursday.
A couple of days earlier, Warriors had let in three goals against the Lancers but were good enough to score seven. The Waveriders and the Warriors had played an extra game each, were equal on points (11) but the former were on top of the table because of a superior goal difference.
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Three of those goals came in Waveriders’ 3-1 win in the opening match of this season against the Warriors.
The side from Punjab had bounced back and won their next two games. But they still needed something special to get past the Waveriders at home.
Sandeep Singh, the drag-flicker, gave Warriors the goal to cherish in the eighth minute of the game by converting a penalty corner to the right of Nicolas Jacobi, the towering German goal-keeper. A couple of minutes later, Jacobi’s counterpart, Dutchman Jaap Stockmann pulled off two saves – the first to stop Rupinder Pal Singh from coverting a penalty corner and the second to keep out a field goal – to help keep intact the advantage Sandeep had created.
It wasn’t to be the last time Stockmann was to leave his mark on the game.
The lead increased in the 64th minute when Satbir Singh pounced on a lose ball to make it 2-0.
However, Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty corner in the very next minute to reduce the margin.
The goal gave the Waveriders a much needed boost. Or so it should have been. But at the other end, Warriors’ Shivendra Singh beat Jacobi from close range. The field goal coming within the same minute of Rupinder’s pentaly-corner conversion effectively ended the game.
But the Waveriders believed that there was enough time on the clock for them to make a comeback. They earned two more penalty corners in the dying moments of the match, but once again Stockmann denied Rupinder.
The 3-1 full-time scoreline was an apt margin for the Warriors to avenge their loss in the season opener against the Waveriders and top the table.
Punjab coach Barry Dancer said, “This was our first win against Delhi and it took us four games to get this victory. Sandeep was outstanding today and his contribution was the key to this win.”