A resilient Uttar Pradesh Wizards came up with an inspired show to beat home team and defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors 6-2 here on Monday. Goals by Shamsher Singh (5'), Ajay Yadav (40') and Akashdeep Singh (58') ensured they took home five points from the match.
With the fifth edition of Coal India Hockey India League inching closer towards the final weekend to be held here in Chandigarh on February 25 and 26, the game between Uttar Pradesh Wizards and defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors was going to be a crucial one to keep their hopes alive this season.
While a win for the home team would mean they would climb to the third spot on the points table, it was a do-or-die match for the Uttar Pradesh Wizards as a loss would mean they would stand no chance of making the semi-final cut and they did not disappoint.
The visitors, led by experienced VR Raghunath, ensured they got off to a fine start in the first quarter when Shamsher Singh struck a stupendous field goal in only the 5th minute of the match to take a 2-0 lead. The visitors further won a PC with just 13 seconds left for the first hooter, thanks to Ramandeep Singh, but Raghunath’s powerful drag flick was brilliantly saved by Tristan Clemons who has been in splendid form this season.
The visitors continued to dominate with ball possession in the second quarter too. They earned their second PC in the 23rd minute, but the Uttar Pradesh Wizards tried a different variation only to attempt a field goal, however, Wouter Jolie’s strike was way off target.
Meanwhile Armaan Qureshi, who is coming back after a break due to a niggle, was rather impressive for the Jaypee Punjab Warriors with his forays into the circle but couldn’t get the ball past Uttar Pradesh Wizards’ celebrated goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who showcased some fine skills at the post to ensure his team kept the 2-0 lead at half-time.
The ten-minute break seemed to have done a world of good for the home team who scored within 30 seconds of the play resuming. It was a clever pass by Varun Kumar to forward SV Sunil who further assisted Dutchman Mirco Pruijser, who just had to tap the ball into the post.
His successful attempt fetched the much-needed equaliser for Jaypee Punjab Warriors. But they gave up the lead nine minutes later when a defensive error in the 40th minute by the home team, made way for young Ajay Yadav. Unmarked in the striking circle, Yadav made no mistake in trapping the pass by Akashdeep Singh and took his time to send the ball straight into the goal taking the Uttar Pradesh Wizards lead to 4-2.
The final quarter saw some upbeat action with Uttar Pradesh Wizards coming up with clever play by trying to hold the possession for as long as possible, not allowing the defending champions an opportunity to counter attack. Home team's Tristan Clemons was replaced by stand-in keeper Jugraj Singh at the post and he, unfortunately, could not stop a field goal by Akashdeep Singh in the 58th minute that sealed the match for the visitors.
Akashdeep Singh of Uttar Pradesh Wizards was awarded a prize money of Rs 50,000 for scoring the Coal India Goal of the Match from Mr Jasbir Singh Pala, Senior Manager, Sales and Marketing, Coal India Ltd.
Shamsher Singh of Uttar Pradesh Wizards won the prize of Rs 25,000 for being the Hero Young Achiever of the Match from Mr. Balbir Singh Senior, Olympian.
The Airtel Most Entertaining Player of the Match was awarded to Armaan Qureshi of Jaypee Punjab Warriors that came with a prize money of Rs 25,000 and presented by Dr. Chander Shekhar, IPS (retired), President Hockey Chandigarh.
Ajay Yadav of Uttar Pradesh Wizards was declared the Man of the Match and was awarded a prize money of Rs 50,000 by Mr. Jagbir Singh, Olympian and Team Manager Jaypee Punjab Warriors.
On 15 February, Delhi Waveriders will take on Dabang Mumbai in New Delhi at 1900 hrs.
Matches will be shown live on Star Sports 2 & HD 2 and Star Sports 3 & HD 3 and live streamed on Hotstar.