It was a match that had the trappings of a real cracker. After all, the Hero Hockey India League’s two most exciting teams – Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Riders – were slugging it out in the much-hyped league opener at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi.
And what a match it was – end-to-end action was witnessed as both teams tried to assert their supremacy in the opening quarter – the only difference was that Delhi Waveriders looked more promising whereas Jaypee Punjab Warriors seemed to run out of ideas once they were in the opposition half.
Egged on by a vociferous home crowd, Riders controlled the midfield for most part of the first quarter and their persistence paid off when German Oskar Deecke gave them the much-needed lead.
The Riders doubled the lead in the second quarter (22nd minute) through Gurvinder Singh Chandi when his cross from the right deflected Mark Knowles’ leg to roll over the Warriors’ goal-line.
The Warriors tried hard to come back into the contest but their forwardline struggled to stitch scoring chances. Australian icon Jamie Dwyer had a quiet day on the turf; even the likes of Shivendra Singh, SV Sunil and Dharamvir Singh disappointed as Riders went into the second quarter break with a 2-0 cushion.
The Warriors must thank their goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann for pulling off several superb saves. If not for his brilliant goalkeeping, Riders would have easily notched up a big win.
Just when it appeared that the Warriors’ morale was sagging, Spanish Roger Pedro revived their hopes with a superb reverse flick goal in the third quarter as Riders held on to a slender 2-1 at the end of the penultimate quarter.
The Warriors pressed hard in the final quarter but the Riders gamely hung on to their 2-1 lead to log five points from their opening match win.
Interestingly, both teams earned three penalty corners each but failed to profit from them.
Riders’ Oskar Deecke won the best goal scorer award, while Jaap Stockmann was adjuged the Man of the Match – a fair indication of how his goalkeeping skills saved the Warriors from suffering a massive defeat.