It took an inspired performance from the Uttar Pradesh Wizards to finally stop the Delhi Waveriders juggernaut from rolling as they thrashed the home team 4-1 in their final round-robin match of the Hockey India League at the floodlit Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi on Thursday.
After a dull and actionless opening half, the Wizards scored through field goals from Jeroen Hertzberger (39th minute), S K Uthappa (49th), Somanna Pudiyokkada (56th) and Gunasekar Malayalan (65th) to register the win.
For the Waveriders, Andrew Hayward scored the consolation goal by a converting a penalty corner in the 64th minute.
Despite the defeat, Delhi ended as table-toppers with 49 points from 12 games, while the Wizards jumped to the third spot with 32 points from as many games.
The Waveriders will now lock horns against fourth-placed Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the semifinals on Saturday, while the Wizards will face second-placed Ranchi Rhinos on their home turf in the other last four game the same day.
Both the teams displayed unimpressive hockey and looked out-of-sorts in the opening quarter.
Delhi were completely off-colour on Thursday and never looked the team which came into the match with an unbeaten record.
Delhi witnessed their worst start in the tournament as they were hardly penetrative in the first quarter. The UP side, on the other hand, had the better of the exchanges in the opening quarter and made couple of good moves but failed to breach the rival citadel for once.
After a dull first quarter, the match livened up in the second quarter with both the teams showing more purpose in their game.
The match flowed from end to the other with both the teams making numerous inroads into the rival citadel.
It was the home team which had the first chance to score soon after the resumption of play in the second quarter but they wasted the opportunity as Punjab goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam made a good save from close range.
The Wizards then got their first scoring chance in the 23rd minute but Hertzberger's reverse hit from top of the circle was saved by Delhi custodian Nicolas Jacobi.
The Waveriders was again denied by an alert Punjab goalkeeper Subramiam who brilliantly palmed away Akashdeep Singh's diving reverse shot from the top of the 'D'.
Subramiam was once again at the thick of things when he denied Simon Child from a goalmouth melee just three minutes from the half-time.
The Wizards earned two penalty corners in the first half but wasted both as the two teams failed to break the deadlock in the opening half.
The Waveriders' struggle continued after the change of ends as the Wizards pressed hard for goals and applied pressure on the Delhi defence soon after the resumption of play.
Wizards' continuous pressure soon yielded result when Hertzberger scored a fine field goal in the 39th minute to break the deadlock. Hertzberger neatly collected a pass and then dodged past three Delhi defenders to score the goal with a reverse shot from top of the circle which rival goalkeeper Jacobi had no answer.
Pegged by the strike, the UP outfit went all out attacking and doubled their lead 10 minutes later through Uthappa who scored from a reverse after the initial shot was saved by an onrushing Jacobi.
If that was not enough for a humiliation for the table toppers, seven minutes later an unmarked Somanna slotted home past Jacobi after receiving a fine pass from Nithin Thimmaiah to make the scoreline 3-0 in favour of the visitors.
The hosts, however, pulled one back through Hayward from one of the three penalty corners they earned in succession.
But the Wizards restored their three goal lead in the subsequent move when an unmarked Gunasekar slotted home from the left flank past Jacobi after receiving a fine pass from Thimmiah.