A resilient Uttar Pradesh Wizards came up with an inspired show to beat defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors 6-2 in a Hockey India League match in Chandigarh on Monday.
Goals by Shamsher Singh (5th minue), Ajay Yadav (40th) and Akashdeep Singh (58th) ensured that UP Wizards take home five points from the match.
With the fifth edition of the HIL inching closer towards the final weekend, the game between Uttar Pradesh Wizards and hosts Jaypee Punjab Warriors was going to be a crucial one to keep their hopes alive this season.
While a win for the home side would have sent them to the third spot on the points table, it was a do-or die match for the Uttar Pradesh Wizards as a loss would give them no chance of making it to the semifinals and they did not disappoint.
The visitors, led by experienced V R Raghunath, ensured that they got off to a fine start in the first quarter when Shamsher Singh struck a stupendous field goal in only the 5th minute of the match to take a 2-0 lead.
UP Wizards then won a penalty corner with just 13 seconds left for the first hooter, thanks to Ramandeep Singh, but Raghunath’s powerful drag-flick was brilliantly saved by Tristan Clemons who has been in splendid form this season.
The visitors continued to dominate with ball possession in the second quarter too. They earned their second penalty corner in the 23rd minute, but Uttar Pradesh Wizards tried a different variation only to attempt for a field goal. However, Wouter Jolie’s strike was way off target.
Meanwhile Armaan Qureshi, who came back after a break due to a niggle, was impressive for the Jaypee Punjab Warriors with his forays into the circle but could not get the ball past Uttar Pradesh Wizards goalkeeper P R Sreejesh who showcased some fine skills at the post to ensure his team kept the 2-0 lead at half-time.
The ten-minute break seemed to have done a world of good for the home team who scored within 30 seconds of play resuming. It was a clever thinking pass by Varun Kumar to forward S V Sunil who assisted Dutchman Mirco Pruijser to tap the ball home.
But Jaypee Punjab Warriors gave the lead nine minute later due to a defensive error in the 40th minute. Unmarked in the striking circle, Ajay Yadav made no mistake in trapping the pass by Akashdeep Singh and took his time to send the ball straight into the goal taking the Uttar Pradesh Wizards lead to 4-2.
The final quarter saw some upbeat action with Uttar Pradesh Wizards coming up with clever play by trying to hold the possession for as long as possible, not allowing the defending champions an opportunity to counter attack.
Home team’s Tristan Clemons was replaced by stand-in keeper Jugraj Singh at the post and he unfortunately could not stop a field goal by Akashdeep Singh in the 58th minute that sealed the match for the visitors.