Captain VR Raghunath led from the front and slammed a hat-trick to help Uttar Pradesh Wizards to win their 2nd match in the tournament, as they came from 0-2 down to register a 5-3 win over Dabur Mumbai Magicians in a round-robin league match of the second edition of Hero Hockey India League (HHIL) at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium in Mumbai today.
After failing to seize their opportunities in the first two quarters, the Uttar Pradesh Wizards took control of the game after halftime and pumped in as many as four goals to make a stunning comeback in the game.
The match started on a slow pace as both the sides struggled to get their footing initially.
Dabur Mumbai Magicians, however, seized the first real opportunity that came their way through Gurjinder Singh (12th minute) who scored from their first penalty corner.
The Uttar Pradesh Wizards responded quickly and managed to earn two penalty corners in succession, the second of which resulted in a penalty stroke but the home team goalkeeper David Haarte from Ireland came up with a brilliant save with his stick to keep a clean slate for his side in the opening quarter.
Dabur Mumbai Magicians added salt to Uttar Pradesh Wizards’ wounds when Australian Glenn Turner found the target on rebound after Gurjinder’s flick was saved on another penalty corner in the 18th minute to take double the lead.
After the hosts wasted a set piece, the Uttar Pradesh Wizards got two penalty corners in quick time, the second of which was converted by captain V R Raghunath (28th minute) to reduce the margin.
The visitors were the better side on display in the opening 35 minutes as they managed to earn as many as six penalty corners out of which they converted just one to help Dabur Mumbai Magicians go into the midway break with a slender 2-1 lead.
Both the teams came out full throttle after the crossover and threatened each other’s citadel with persistent attacks.
But Uttar Pradesh Wizards capitalized on their chances and just five minutes into the third quarter, Raghunath (41st minute) was yet again at the thick of things as he found the back of the opposition net for the second time from a penalty corner to level the scores.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards took the lead for the first time in the game through Siddharth Shanker’s (52nd) field goal when lofted the ball over Haarte before Raghunath (56rth minute) converted yet another penalty corner to register his first hat-trick in HHIL 2014.
With Uttar Pradesh Wizards on full flow the Dabur Mumbai Magicians defense looked at sea in the last two quarters of the match.
Dabur Mumbai Magicians’ Sarvanjit Singh (57th minute) scored off a rebound after Gurjinder got the initial touch to add another goal to the home team’s kitty.
But the visitors further extended their lead in the 59th minute when SK Uthappa registered his name in the score sheet with a brilliant deflection off Teun de Nooijer’s pass.
The win, their second on the trot in the tournament, propelled Uttar Pradesh Wizards to the second position in the points table with 10 points from two games.
Dabur Mumbai Magicians, on the other hand, slumped to their second straight defeat in the tournament and are currently lying at the second last position in the six-team event with just two points.
The evening saw Sherlyn Chopra, Model/Bollywood Actress enthralling the crowd with her performance during the half time. She said while addressing the crowd, “If cricket is the religion of India, then hockey is the tradition of India.”
V R Raghunath received the Hero Goal of the Match, Yes Bank Garv and Man of the Match awards for his stupendous performance.
Captain of Uttar Pradesh Wizards, V R Raghunath said, “Coaches are helping us hone our skills and we are learning a lot under their guidance. We had chances to score more goals but credit to the goal keeper of Mumbai who contained us. I am really excited as the match was very intense.”
Roelant Oltmans, Coach of Uttar Pradesh Wizards said, “There is lot of scope for improvement in the team. We are wasteful of penalty corners and need to convert more. Each game is a learning for the team and we take lot of lessons to improve our performance in subsequent matches.”
Gurjinder Singh from Dabur Mumbai Magicians said, “I am learning a lot from this tournament. Playing alongside seniors and against big players gives us lot of opportunities to gain more insight into the game. I am really impressed with Raghu’s goal today and will surely try to score a similar one some day.”
Uttar Pradesh Wizards will next host title holders Ranchi Rhinos at Lucknow in the opening match of Saturday’s double-header, while Dabur Mumbai Magicians will travel to Bhubaneswar to play Kalinga Lancers in the second game of the day (Full schedule/points table here).