Delhi Waveriders continued their dream run in the Hero Hockey India League with a clinical 3-0 win over Jaypee Punjab Warriors at the MDC National Stadium on Tuesday.
For Waveriders, yet to be beaten in the tournament, goals came from Akashdeep Singh, Andrew Hayward and Simon Child. Waveriders now have 32 points from seven games, five more than second placed Ranchi Rhinos. "Delhi Waveriders are definitely playing well, and are favourites to win the title," Warriors' skipper Jamie Dwyer said after the match.
There was only one goal scored in the first two quarters, but Waveriders were clearly the better side at half-time. They created more chances; they had higher number of circle penetration (10 to Warriors' 5) and also dominated the ball possession (58%). However, AK Bansal's team had only one goal to show for it, a beautiful strike by Akashdeep Singh in the 13th minute. After getting the ball near Warriors' D, Akashdeep dribbled past a couple of defenders, took the ball to the right of the goalpost, and then smashed an unstoppable reverse-hit to put Waveriders on the scoreboard.
SV Sunil had a great chance to equalise for Warriors in the second quarter. Sunil got a great ball from left flank, and just needed to beat the goalkeeper. But the pass that came from left flank and some pace on it, which Sunil failed to control, and ended up completely miss-timing his strike that went wide of the goalpost.
With all the high pressure and intensity during the game we had a surprise visit at halftime from Akshay Kumar who performed a live song from his forthcoming film for all the spectators and audience present here. Akshay
Kumar and Kajal Agarwal were here to cheer the players and show their support towards Hockey and also lighten up the atmosphere at the MDC National Stadium.
The action returned with the Warriors' goalkeeper Jacob Stockmann kept under pressure in the last six minutes of the third quarter, in which not much else happened. First, Talwinder collected a loose ball, and smacked a strong reverse-hit, that was well stopped by Stockmann. Dutchman was at his best again three minutes later, when a deflection from his team-mate looked like going inside the goal, before his sharp reflexes enabled Stockmann to make a superb save.
With just a minute-and-half left in the quarter, Waveriders' Oscar Deecke made a superb move, and was illegally checked inside the Warriors D, resulting in a penalty corner. Their Kiwi defender Andy Hayward made no mistake in finding the left corner of Stockmann's goalpost to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
Akashdeep had a chance to score his second in the last quarter, when he brilliantly controlled a clever ball from Sardar Singh, but was unable to hit the target. In the 63rd minute, Waveriders had another chance to put the game beyond Warriors, when Bharat Chetri made a good save for the visitors.
Warriors, who could not earn a single penalty corner in the entire game, pushed everybody forward in the last four minutes and replaced their goalkeeper with a striker. And Waveriders caught them on the counter, with Simon Child scoring in the last minute. Child's goal denied Warriors one point that would have otherwise got for losing by two or less goals.
Barry Dancer, Coach Jaypee Punjab Warriors, said, "Our performance was disappointing today. There were areas in which we improved during our previous games, but didn't put it to use today. We lacked in entering the opponents 25, skill execution and the basic coordination of players. We hope to play more consistently in our future games and we are we will win against Delhi Waveriders when we play them in Jalandhar."
Winning coach Ajay Kumar Bansal, said, "The team has always been playing well and the coordination of this team has been stupendous. HIL has given us the opportunity to grow hockey and give international and Indian hockey players a new meaning to this sport. In today's match all our new players got a chance to play and it was excellent play today."
In their next home match Jaypee Punjab Warriors take on Ranchi Rhinos on 4th February, at the Surjit Singh Hockey Stadium at 8 p.m.