For the fourth time in a row, Mumbai Magicians failed to pull a winning rabbit out of their hat, going down by the tennis score of 4-6 to Delhi Waveriders in their backyard in the highest scoring match of the Hockey India League so far. The winners led 3-1 at ‘half-time’. The victory helped the northern team managed by A K Bansal, the only ‘desi’ coach in the fray, zoom to the top of the table with 17 points while the home side remain in the basement with 4 points.
Ric Charlesworth’s decision to replace India custodian P R Sreejesh with P T Rao backfired as the latter was culpable for the first two goals his side conceded while inept defending was responsible for the others. The Malayali shot stopper incidentally came back after the crossover and immediately stopped two penalty corner flicks by Rupinder Pal Singh and other efforts directed at his cage. But in the end, he too was overwhelmed by the collective frailties of the home defence which kept leaking goals by the half dozen.
All of Mumbai’s strikes came from penalty corners with Sandeep Singh notching a brace and Glenn Turner and newcomer Jason Wilson also getting onto the score sheet. But despite enjoying more ball possession, the local forwards failed to come to the party though Turner sparkled on and off and Matthew Butturini was unlucky not to find the target on two occasions in the third session.
The visitors got their goals through Oskar Deckee, Lloyd Norris Jones, Danish Mujtaba, junior international Akashdeep Singh, mercurial defender Andrea Mir Bel (penalty corner) and Simon Child who completed the rout. The Waveriders showed their fighting capabilities by overcoming deficits twice to run away as convincing winners, even as Mumbai yet again crumbled in the last quarter.
Delhi literally attacked in waves all through the match and created the first opening in the 6th minute itself when Akashdeep’s lovely back dink just went wide. But it was Mumbai who had the first laugh three minutes later when Sandeep’s powerful drag flick burst through the pads of an unbalanced Nicolas Jacobi, the Olympic gold medallist from Germany.
Oscar Deecke restored parity in the 14th minute when after being set up by Akashdeep Singh, his angular shot from the top of the circle beat an out of position Rao. The goalkeeper was again at fault as Norris Jones’ reverse shot caught him napping once more in similar fashion. Mujtaba helped the visitors cross over with a 3-1 advantage when a long hit into the circle saw the ball going to and fro before the Indian international sounded the boards with a crisp shot.
Mumbai wrested back the lead yet again in the third quarter only for Delhi to equalize through a splendid field goal by Akashdeep who threw himself on the carpet at the far post to put the ball past Sreejesh after man of the match Gurivinder Singh Chandi had made a mesmerizing run into the danger zone. Goals by the impressive Bel and Kiwi sharpshooter Childs in the fourth quarter finally buried the beleaguered hosts for good.
Watch the highlights of the match here.