After a successful run of four wins and one draw, table-toppers Jaypee Punjab Warriors tasted their first defeat, as Uttar Pradesh Wizards edged past them by 2-1 in 15th match of Hero Hockey India League 2015 at Dhyan Chand Sports College in Lucknow. It was VR Raghunath and Ramandeep Singh who stood tall and scored for their team whereas Jaypee Punjab Warriors’ captain Jamie Dwyer scored to reduce the deficit.
In the first quarter, host team Uttar Pradesh Wizards outplayed the visitors with their spirited performance and attacking moves, which stunned the opponents’ camp. Seven minutes into the game, UP Wizards drew first blood when they counter-attacked on Jaypee Punjab Warriors’ half and earned a penalty corner. Penalty corner specialist VR Raghunath converted it with a well placed flick beating Jaap Stockmann to score the first goal of the match. With this early lead, the home team attacked more aggressively and maintained the pressure on Jaypee Punjab Warriors. Their aggression paid again when they scored their second goal in the 9th minute. During their counter charge, forward player Ramandeep Singh received the ball in the opponents D and without giving any time to react to the defenders and custodian Stockmann, he hit the ball straight on the target taking the score to 2-0.
Leading the game 2-0 Uttar Pradesh Wizards entered the second quarter of the game with an edge over the opponents. Both the teams stepped on the turf with more passion and attacked each other’s halves. However, the presence of world’s two best goalkeepers – Jaap Stockmann and PR Sreejesh, on both sides foiled the chances and quarter ended without the scorecard being touched. At the end of first half the hosts were still leading 2-0.
In the third quarter, host team charged again with better strategies and maintained control over the ball. They managed to come close to converting the goals but failed to do so on every occasion. The same quarter saw UP Wizards forward players Nikkin Thimmaiah and Gunasekar missing close chances to score goals as on both occasions Jaap Stokmann stood like a wall in front of the goal-post. After the tensed quarter, the score-board stood 2-0 as UP Wizards maintained their dominance on the match.
The last quarter finally saw Jaypee Punjab Warriors break the shackles of PR Sreejesh and score their first goal. It was Jake Whetton who charged from the left flank, beating the defenders and then passed it to his captain Jamie Dwyer on the other side. Jamie didn’t waste a moment to smash the ball in the box to score in the 52nd minute and took the score to 2-1. After the goal, both the teams continuously charged on each other’s ends and tried to create more opportunities. Just thirty seconds before the final whistle, Jamie Dwyer received a ball in front of the goal but the ball hit the goal post and went outside the field. After missing the last opportunity to level the score, Jaypee Punjab Warriors lost their first match of the Hero Hockey India League by 1-2 against the home team Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
With this win, Uttar Pradesh Wizards are sitting on second position in the points-table with 19 points where as Jaypee Punjab Worriers is still leading the table with 23 points.
After the match, Jaypee Punjab Warriors Coach Barry Dancer addressed the post-match press conference, “UP Wizards were a better side today and full credit goes to the them especially after losing yesterday’s match and coming back strong today. I am disappointed with our performance as we gave away goals in the initial stage itself and handed over the lead to the opponents. Performance was not consistent at all and we will have to cooperate even better than our opponents in the league.“
Jaypee Punjab Warriors Captain Jamie Dwyer added, “Penalty Corners play a vital role in a match and this was a major problem today as we could not convert any. We were inconsistent in the entire match and lost out on many opportunities. This loss today will be a learning for the whole team and we will try and come back in the upcoming matches in the league. Sreejesh is the No. 1 Indian goalkeeper and he has been playing well in the League. He is doing his job really well.“
Coach Roelant Oltmans of Uttar Pradesh Wizards stated at the press conference,“Yes, captain Wouter Jolie did turn out to be lucky for the team as we won the match today. However, a good performance in any match is not only because of the captain, it is a team effort. We managed to show that we are a much better team and this was a much deserved win for us. We must have a plan for every game. We analysed our earlier game against Jaypee Punjab Warriors played in Mohali earlier and it worked out well for the team today. This shall be a part of our strategy for all the forthcoming matches in the league.“
Captain of Uttar Pradesh Wizards Wouter Jolie said, “It feels nice to be leading such a good team. We have three options for the post of the captain, which includes VR Raghunath, Edward Ockenden and myself, ready at all times and the captaincy is expected to be rotating throughout. Today, there was more energy in the team and we played as one unit, not individuals. Sreejesh is a very important member of our team as he has the capability to help the team to win matches. Having a goalkeeper like him also gives us the opportunity to have all the five foreign players on the field.“
Hero Goal of the Match: Ramandeep Singh, Uttar Pradesh Wizards
Match of the Match: Ramandeep Singh, Uttar Pradesh Wizards
Next Match: 5th February: DM vs DWR – 19:00 HRS, Mumbai The Match will be telecast Live on Star Sports