Punjab Warriors completed their domination over Mumbai Magicians in the Hockey India League by scoring their third win against the hosts with a 3-1 margin at the MHA Mahindra Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday.
In a fast-paced encounter, the Warriors - who had beaten the Magicians 4-2 in their first leg clash at this venue and then 4-3 in the second meeting at home - looked a better side in attack as well as defence, especially in the opening half, to emerge deserving winners.
Magicians down 1-3 at the beginning of the third quarter, forced three penalty corners but their main goal-getter, captain Sandeep Singh, who is the leading scorer in the league with 11 under his belt, was unable to score even once.
All the goals for the Warriors, who led 2-0 at half time, were field efforts and were notched by Dharamvir Singh (7th minute), Robert Hammond (22nd) and Malak Singh (52nd) while the lone goal for the Magicians which reduced the margin of the Warriors' lead to 2-1 was notched by Jonny Jasrotia with an indirect penalty corner effort in the 47th minute.
The ninth-round victory put Punjab on 25 points, still third in the table behind leaders Delhi Waveriders (34 points from 8 games) and Ranchi Rhinos (29 from 8) while their eighth defeat from nine encounters had the Magicians on 13, one point earned from today's lost game.
Magicians' only victory has been a 4-0 rout of Uttar Pradesh Wizards on Wednesday.
The hosts just lost their way when nearing the rival 'D' for most part of the opening half, though they fought hard in the second half after being 0-2 down at the halfway stage.
For the Warriors, star forwards S V Sunil and Jamie Dwyer, the captain, combined very well up front with good feeds from the likes of Dharamvir Singh and Ignace Tirkey.
The deep defense of the visitors was also very good with the likes of Mark Knowles and Tirkey showing calm demeanour in clearing the ball and their man-to-man marking was also effective, especially in the opening half when they had the clear edge.
The first quarter saw the Warriors virtually pitching the tent in the rival half and but for some good defending by the Magicians, especially by goalkeeper P R Sreejesh, the home team citadel would have fallen much earlier than when it did in the 7th minute.
The goal was a product of some loose defending by the Magicians who allowed a diagonal hit from the left flank to come to Sreejesh and the deflection from his pads was pouched upon by Dharamvir who scored from 8 yards out.
Punjab changed their goalkeeper by replacing Bharat Chetri with Jacob Stockmann very early in the game.
The Magicians made a good concerted move when Glenn Turner combined well with skipper Matthew Butturuni but the move failed to yield result.
The Warriors continued to attack with vigour in the second quarter and one such move paid dividend when Simon Orchard sent in a square pass deep down the right flank.
The ball eluded the defenders and reached the waiting Robert Hammond near the far post for the player to deflect it in from close.
Down by two goals, Magicians tried to break through the tight Warriors defence, but just could not get a clear look at the rival goal.
Towards the end of the first half of play, Warriors forced the first penalty corner of the game but failed to score with an indirect try.
Crossing over, the Magicians started to dominate the proceedings, but poor marksmanship let them down.
They pressed hard for a goal and finally earned a penalty corner though their expert Sandeep Singh was off the field.
Jonny Jasrotia, who had scored once through the set piece routine in an earlier match, was again on hand to deflect the ball in off the post, beating Bharat Chetri, who had replaced Stockmann, under the Warriors' bar. With better poaching skills, Magicians could have got another goal for the equaliser but following a goalmouth melee, the ball was kicked out by Chetri.
A quick counter-attack ensued and the Warriors secured their third goal. A long though ball from the midfield by Dharamvir was picked up by the diminutive Malak Singh who drew Sreejesh to the right and hit the ball on the run from a very acute angle past the home team goalkeeper into the goal to provide a 3-1 lead with one quarter left.
Magicians, fighting hard for another goal, got three gilt-edged chances when they earned their second, third and fourth short corner awards at the beginning of the last quarter.
Though Sandeep was on the field to take them his drag-flicks failed to find the mark as they were blocked by Chetri on the first occasion and the other defenders later. The India discard thus drew a blank after having scored a hat-trick and two goals in two of the earlier three games.