Jaypee Punjab Warriors entered the final of the Hockey India League for the third consecutive year after posting a 3-1 victory over Delhi Waveriders in the first semi-final here today.
The Warriors will face the winner of the second semi-final between defending Champions Ranchi Rays and Kalinga Lancers in the summit clash tomorrow.
The first quarter of the game started with both the teams playing cautiously, observing the game plan of each other.
Both teams looked for counter attacking opportunities and the first major chance came Delhi’s way in the 6th minute through a penalty corner, which was converted effectively by Rupinder Pal Singh to give the team an early lead.
This was Rupinder’s 12th goal of the tournament.
Delhi maintained their 1-0 lead at the end of the first
quarter, and the second quarter expectedly saw Punjab Warriors pressing hard to establish equilibrium.
Punjab efforts paid dividends in the 19th minute when young striker Armaan Qureshi netted the ball through a reverse flick shot that beat Devon Manchester. This field goal helped Punjab take a 2-1 lead.
They got another opportunity to extend the lead in the 27th minute but failed to convert the penalty corner chance.
The Punjab side kept the pressure on with SV Sunil making two good circle penetrations, though those could not be converted into a goal.
The first half ended with the Warriors leading 2-1.
Punjab continued to dominate in the third quarter and
although Delhi came close to scoring in the 39th minute through Justin Reid Ross, the deflected shot went past the goal post.
Punjab kept up the pressure for most of the fourth quarter also with a strong ball possession.
Their tactics came handy as a high ball from across the field was stopped by Matt Gohdes and deflected onto the foot of Delhi defender that give Punjab a penalty corner.
The opportunity was well converted by Simon Orchard in the 51st minute and that gave Punjab a two-goal cushion.
Delhi tried their best to make a come back in the dying minutes of the match but a strong defence and good goalkeeping from Tristan Clemons kept them at bay.
The last few seconds of the game saw Delhi coming very close to scoring but exceptional goalkeeping from Clemons ensured Punjab’s smooth entry into the HIL final.
“We played very well as a team. If we continue playing this way we are very hopeful of a positive finish,” said Barry Dancer, head coach of Punjab Warriors.
Disappointed with the loss, Delhi Waveriders coach Cedric Dsouza said, “We created many chances in the match but we weren’t able to convert any of them. It was disappointing but we also need to give credit to the defence of Punjab.”