What’s the story?
Dabang Mumbai entered the final of the Hockey India League for the very first time as they defeated the Delhi Waveriders by a 2-0 margin at the Sector 42 Stadium in Chandigarh. They dominated proceedings from the outset, scoring in the 26th minute through Robbert Kempermann, and then hitting the post twice in the later stages.
Goalkeeper David Harte saved a penalty stroke from Delhi’s Iain Lewers in the second quarter and had to be alert till the very end to earn his clean sheet. Mumbai’s skipper and talisman Florian Fuchs expressed his delight at his side’s victory in the post-match press conference.
“I’m overwhelmed, I must say,” said the German. “It’s the first time we are in the final and our performance today was excellent too. I’m really happy.” He did admit that his team could have been more efficient in front of goal. “We could have made things easier for ourselves towards the end of the game. But our defence was perfect and we played very well as a team,” he said.
Delhi coach Cedric D’Souza was disappointed with the Waveriders’ performance, saying that his side ‘blew it’. “We can’t blame the loss on our luck. We gave far too much space to our opponents at times and didn’t take our chances when they appeared,” said the former India coach.
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The Mumbai side had topped the table in the league, winning six out of their ten matches while the Waveriders made it through by the narrowest of margins on goal difference. When the sides met in the league stages, it was Mumbai that claimed victory by a 3-2 margin on both occasions.
The heart of the matter
After a dull first quarter, the game burst into life as Kempermann scored from a penalty corner situation. Instead of going for the routine drag-flick option, Mumbai opted to play the ball out to the Dutchman at the outer circle, who trapped it, entered the penalty area and smacked a low shot into the corner with a reverse hit in the 26th minute.
Delhi were awarded a penalty stroke in the very next minute after a foul on Mandeep Singh, but Lewers’ effort was pushed onto the crossbar by Mumbai’s Irish keeper. That was to be the turning point of the match as Mumbai didn’t let their guard down after that. They earned six penalty corners, out of which only one was converted, and hit the woodwork twice in the final quarter through Johan Bjorkman and Affan Yousuf’s efforts.
The Hockey India League will come to a close on Sunday as Mumbai will face off against the Kalinga Lancers in the final. Prior to that game, the Delhi Waveriders will play the UP Wizards in the third-place playoff.
In a cagey and tactical game, Dabang Mumbai outmuscled the Waveriders to book a place in the final. The final will be contested between the two table-toppers from the league stage and promises to be a nail-biter.