Dabang Mumbai managed only four wins in 10 games during the fourth edition of Hockey India League and finished second last on the points table. Though they were scoring aplenty, Mumbai’s defence was leaky and let in goals with ease. Cut to the 2017 season and they can find themselves sitting pretty on top of the table with four wins from seven matches, accumulating 23 points.
The team from Mumbai claimed an excellent 5-2 victory over Kalinga Lancers to claim bragging rights in the West-East derby and usual suspects, Harmanpreet Singh and Florian Fuchs were at it again. Harmanpreet Singh, who was a key player in India’s triumph at the 2016 Junior Hockey World Cup, has continued his excellent form and has been a nightmare for opposition defences from penalty corners while being astute at the back.
A balanced squad
Jay Stacy’s squad for 2017 Hockey India League seems to be pretty balanced with plenty of strength in all positions apart from having the right mixture of youth and experience. Starting from the back, David Harte’s solid goalkeeping and crucial saves from point blank range have bailed out the team from a lot of adverse situations. Meanwhile, in the backline, Emmanuel Stockbroekx and Harmanpreet Singh have linked up well with the midfield, enabling them to play an attacking brand of hockey.
Dabang Mumbai’s attack has stood out till now in the 2017 Hockey India League and if they play the same way, Stacy’s team could well be on its way to the semi-finals. Florian Fuchs, their captain fantastic, has led from the front and delivered with goals whenever the team has been in trouble. His tally of 8 goals till now have all come from ope play, thereby showing his incredible prowess.
Affan Yousuf, on the other hand, has been a revelation for them, coming into his own during the home games. Along with his three field goals and two penalty corners, Yousuf has shown great versatility in attacking to link up with Fuchs, Robbert Kemperman and Nikkin Thimmiah.
The Mumbaikars have a much superior goal difference (+9) as compared to second placed Kalinga Lancers (-13) and that could make a huge difference in the end, should things run close. Since they have played 70 percent of games in the league stage already, Mumbai will get plenty of time to rest before the business end of the tournament, something that could work in their favour.
Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Delhi Waveriders and Uttar Pradesh Wizards are the remaining fixtures for Dabang Mumbai and all of them are away. And they very well know they cannot afford to let their guard down as all three teams, at their home games, are capable of beating anyone quite comfortably. Moreover, long breaks between matches could lead to a drop in the momentum for Dabang Mumbai, something they would need to analyse properly.
If all hell does not break loose, Dabang Mumbai should easily make it to the semi-finals, given the start they have got till now. More importantly, Dabang Mumbai are playing excellent hockey at the moment and have shown great substance to come back from behind in several matches and that could prove to be an important factor in knockout matches.