More than any other side in the Hockey India League, Punjab Warriors know the pain of losing finals. They have been consistent enough to reach the finals in three out of the four editions. But twice in the past have they drudged off the turf with moist eyes and commiseration. Not on Sunday, though, as they conjured up a wholesomely dominant performance to run Kalinga Lancers ragged, and to clasp their maiden title, ending a rather dubious streak.
The scoreline perfectly sums up the pervading tone of the match—6-1; wherein Warriors shut out, and then bolted, every possible window of hope for Lancers to find a foothold in the contest. On paper, it wasn’t a lop-sided contest. The last time they met, at Punjab’s home, they netted four goals each. But the spectators who might have expected an encore were in for a rude shock.
As early as the fourth minute, Warriors found the break through that eased their nerves. Talented youngster Armaan Qureshi reinforced his reputation with a neat goal. But Kalinga Lancers didn’t panic. Regathering themselves, they made frequent intrusions into the Warriors’ goalmouth. But if Pubjab’s frontline was creative and opportunistic, their defenders were stodgy and assured, maintaining their line and snuffing out their forays.
However, they couldn’t do much to prevent Moritz Fuerste from converting a penalty corner. But that was the only moment they could savour in the match. However, at half-time they must have had hopes of making a good fist out of the game. But as it turned out, it was all misplaced, as Punjab lifted their game to another level upon resumption. Incessantly piling pressure on Lancers’ defenders, they made incision into their opponent’s scoring arc. And in the 39th minute, Matt Gohdes widened the disparity between the sides with another clinical finish
Lancers would do little but to watch their opponents run away with the game. They ventured to attack, but it only turned counter-productive as Punjab launched pacy counterattacks. Three minutes later, Satbir Singh drilled in the final nail in the coffin. By that time, both sides knew the impending result. Lancers could only to reduce the margin of the defeat, while Punjab didn’t want any sense of complacency that could bring their opponents back into the game. Nothing untoward happened as Punjab kept the lead till the end.
Waveriders finish third
Earlier in the day, Delhi Waveriders got the better of defending champions Ranchi Rays 2-0 in the bronze medal play-off match to finish third. The match started with the Waveriders pressing hard to score but the well prepared defenders from Ranchi Rays ensured that they do not convert any opportunities.
The Waveriders had the higher ball possession during the first quarter of the match and also ensured higher circle penetrations. However, they couldn’t capitalise on any chance. Ranchi Rays made a few good moves on the counter but all their attempts to score were foiled by Delhi Waveriders.
The second quarter started with Waveriders continuing their attacking game. They were finally able to break the deadlock with a field goal from Mandeep Singh in the 18th minute, taking a crucial 2-0 lead. Delhi dominated the ball possession for most of the quarter thereafter, not giving any inch to Ranchi Rays. The second quarter ended with Delhi leading 2-0. The third quarter started with Ranchi Rays trying hard to establish equilibrium in the match. They launched successive attacks but were unsuccessful in moving past Delhi’s rock solid defence line.
The final quarter of the match saw the Rays making desperate attempts but Delhi were in no mood to allow the Ranchi forwards to convert any opportunities into a goal. At times, they were very unlucky as well, as they spilled a lot of gilt-edged chances.
The Waveriders strong midfield put Ranchi Rays on the back foot and even though they made a few entries into the rival circle, the excellent saves by Delhi goalkeeper Devon Manchester ensured that the defending champions could not convert any into a goal, and no team made any changes to the scoreline after the first goal, despite all their concerted efforts.
The Warriors walked away with a winners cheque of Rs 2.50 crores along with the winner’s trophy. Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das presented the winner’s trophy to Jaypee Punjab Warriors captain Sardar Singh and Mark Knowles.
Kalinga Lancers pocketed a cheque of Rs 1.25 crores for finishing as runners-up.
The Player of the Tournament Award of Rs 50 lakh was awarded to Rupinder Pal Singh of Delhi Waveriders. Mark Knowles of the Warriors walked away with the Man of the Match Award, which carried Rs 50,000.
The Goal of the Match award of Rs 50,000 was awarded to Armaan Qureshi of the Warriors, who has showed a lot of potential throughout the tournament. The Emerging Player of the Match award of Rs 25,000 was awarded also to Qureshi. The Dhruv Batra Maximum Goals award of Rs 20 lakh was awarded to Kalinga Lancers’ Glenn Turner, who had struck in almost every other match. The Ponty Chadha Upcoming Player of the Tournament award of Rs 20 lakh went to Sumit of Ranchi Rays.