They might have bowed out before the semi-finals, but the fifth-placed Dabang Mumbai showed a lot of grit and heart throughout their campaign at the 2016 Coal India Hockey India League (HIL). Even during their six losses, they fought bravely that highly impressed all hockey aficionados.
After the four consecutive defeats initially, the Alphas upped their intensity and attacking game that rewarded them with a total of four victories to end their challenge. Mumbai regaled their fans with some very enjoyable moments all through these ten matches that will be cherished for a long time.
Here’s a recap of the top seven moments from Dabang Mumbai’s 2016 HIL journey:
1. The first goal always has to be the sweetest. The lethal German striker, Florian Fuchs, whom Dabang Mumbai had bought for a whopping US $96,000, lived up to his reputation by opening the scoring against the eventual runners-up Kalinga Lancers in Mumbai’s first match at the 2016 HIL. After Gurjant Singh’s reverse hit could not make it through, it was Fuchs who did the job to put The Alphas in the lead in Bhubaneswar.
2. Dabang Mumbai’s Irish custodian David Harte, who won the ‘FIH Goalkeeper of the Year’ award for his exploits in 2015, lived up to his billing. He put up an exhibition of his superb anticipation and reflexes in Mumbai’s opener as he foiled all of Lancer’s efforts in the first half with some brilliant saves. He kept the charging Lancers in check despite their 5 circle penetrations in the first quarter and in the second quarter, he did not allow Gurjinder Singh’s penalty conversion by stopping his drag flick.
3. 20-year-old Nilakanta Sharma brought joy to the Mumbai fans through his fearless display even when the Alphas were trailing the defending champions Ranchi Rays 3-4 at home. Mumbai came into this match on the back of a four-match losing streak and looked to be heading to another one. But, Nilakanta intervened with his powerful shot that found the back of the net, setting up The Alphas’ maiden victory of the 2016 HIL – a 7-5 stunner over the Rays.
4. After the high of toppling the defending champions, The Alphas were under the pressure of following it up and they did it in style. Mumbai’s 22-year-old Swedish forward Johan Björkman came to the party against the Uttar Pradesh Wizards and his lightning speed helped him breach the defence of the formidable India goalie PR Sreejesh to score a stunning field goal. It would remain Mumbai’s only goal throughout the match that sealed a 2-1 triumph.
5. Dabang Mumbai’s away clash with the Delhi Waveriders will always remain etched in the memories of its fans. When all hopes looked bleak after the hosts slammed in a field goal and made a penalty corner conversion to lead 3-0, The Alphas resurrected themselves like a phoenix from the ashes and snatched an 8-3 victory from the jaws of defeat. As many as four field goals were scored within a span of 9 minutes in a dramatic final quarter that left the home crowd speechless. That match saw The Alphas smash a few HIL records during their incredible goal-scoring spree.
6. A player scoring a brace under a minute in hockey might seem the stuff of dreams, but Dabang Mumbai midfielder Manpreet turned that into reality in that same match against the Waveriders. He scored the last two goals in that high-octane final quarter that ultimately gave his side the 8-3 triumph. And with that, Manpreet also entered the record books as the player to take the least amount of time between two goals in HIL history.
7. The Alphas locked horns with the Uttar Pradesh Wizards in their do-or-die final league encounter where a win would give them a chance to stay alive for a semi-final berth. After trailing 2-3 initially, the Mumbai franchise staged a wonderful comeback that saw them reigning supreme 6-3. The architect of this turnaround was once again Fuchs who emerged from a four-match goalless streak to produce a fabulous reverse hit that gave him his fifth field goal in the fourth edition of the HIL.