Delhi Wizards essayed a brilliant comeback in their crucial tie against favourites Sher-E-Punjab to romp home 2-1 in a sensational finish in the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey.
Shers dominated the field of play and created enough chances inside the circle, but their forwards failed to convert their brilliant moves into goals. On the other hand, Delhi kept its citadel intact when the going was tough and then pounced on its chances with a brace in the second half, causing the biggest upset of the tournament so far.
Fighting back in the second half, Delhi Wizards cancelled out the lone lead before Gurwinder Singh struck the all-important winner in the 63rd minute. Wizards notched up their second win in the tournament while this was the first setback for the Shers, who were playing their fourth straight game on home ground.
Mathew Hotchkis struck a field goal in the 22nd minute to put the Shers on top only to see Manoj Antil equalize 18 minutes later. The Wizards played their hearts out and went extra mile to safeguard their cage from the marauding Shers.
Gurwinder Singh was the star for the Wizards with his timely stunner off Pakistani star Shakeel Abbasi’s pass, eight minutes before the hooter. The youngster’s forehand shot from top of the circle flew like a rocket past the Sher goalkeeper and a defender.
Shers controlled the proceedings in the first half. Coach Rajinder Senior’s team moved like a well-oiled machine to tear apart the fragile Delhi defence at will. Mathews on the left wing and Mandeep Antil on the other wing worked in tandem, entering the D time and again only to see the other forwards let the chances go waste. However, credit goes to the Wizard goalkeeper Kamaldeep Singh, who showed superb flexibility and anticipation to thwart several goal-bound moves.
Shers shortcoming in the penalty corner drills too came to the fore in the match. Olympian Harpal Singh, junior international Harpreet Singh and star Didar Singh failed to find the mark as the Wizards, led by Vivek Singh, Manjeet Kullu and GK Kamaldeep Singh succeeded in blocking the penalty corners.
Shers famed ‘forward trio’ could have made the difference in the first half when they were dominating but failing to find the goals. The speedy Deepak Thakur failed to tap in twice from close range while Gagan Ajit Singh miscued his reverse shot against an open cage much to the chagrin of the big crowd that had turned out to see the firework from the home team. Shers went for the lemon time with a narrow lead.
After the break, Delhi showed urgency in almost all departments. Their midfield appeared tightened and the attack started coming in waves. The Shers were caught napping and committed several mistakes during this phase. Shortly after Prabhjot Singh missed a shot, the athletic Manoj Antil changed the complexion of the game. Much against the run of play, the mercurial forward trapped a free hit from Vikram Kant, drew the goalie out before sending his forehand home (41 min 1-1). The equalizer spurred the Shers to change gear, but they were again found wanting in the finish. In all, Shers wasted as many as 10 penalty corners and twice the number of shots at goal. Manjit Kullu was declared the ‘Player of the Match’.
Goal Scorers for Sher-e-Punjab:
Matthew Hotchkis 22′ (FG)
Goal Scorers for Delhi Wizards:
Manoj Antil 40′ (FG)
Gurvinder Singh 63′ (FG)
Credits: World Series Hockey