The third edition of Hero Hockey India League (HIL 2015) has reached its business with semi-finals and finals scheduled to be played this weekend at Major Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium in New Delhi. With Uttar Pradesh Wizards facing Ranchi Rays and Jaypee Punjab Warriors taking on Delhi Waveriders for places in finals, the HIL 2015 is in interesting stage where Delhi team is looking for third successive final appearance while Wizards have set their eyes on first ever appearance in the summit clash of the league.
It is a clash which Jaypee Punjab Warriors have been waiting for since the Finale of the second season of Hero HIL. The aim is to undo that result and finish the job with a win. And prior to the semis, the Wizards and Rays have clashed twice in the league games of 3rd Hero HIL with Ranchi Rays emerging victorious in both the matches as Uttar Pradesh Wizards went down struggling to lose the games by only a whisker.
The second semi-final match of HIL 2015 tomorrow will witness Jaypee Punjab Warriors taking on Delhi Waveriders where both the teams will want to outwit the other and march to the Finals. While Jaypee Punjab Warriors won both their matches against Delhi Waveriders in the league phase but the former are aware that with Delhi, it will still be an uphill task to dominate and win. Delhi Waveriders on the other hand are coming back to form and which they proved in their last match against Uttar Pradesh Wizards where trailing by 2 goals to 0, they bounced back by scoring three consecutive goals leaving the Wizards stunned, though the match ended in a draw. With a form like this and a capability of bouncing back, makes Delhi Waveriders a strong contender for the Finale. But Jaypee Punjab Warriors too will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the tables are in their favour.
In the entire league phase of HIL 2015, Barry Dancer coached Jaypee Punjab Warriors were faced with a situation where the team made a slow start, making the team vulnerable and in the process give in the early goals. But the positive aspect is by the second half the team effortlessly bounced back and difficult to beat once they get going. With Sandeep Singh converting the all important penalty corners and Jamie Dywer with his capability of tearing at the heart of the defence, the team will be targeting to attack from the start of the game and ensure Delhi doesn’t have an edge over them. Also all eyes will be on the speed demon SV Sunil who, once he gets in the run, defenders find it difficult to keep upto him and can single handedly enter the D of the opponents.
On the other hand, Cedric D’souza with a team which is the defending champions have finally found form and are clicking as a unit. While initially what the team found difficult was the circle penetrations but gradually the team has worked on their attack and are now easily penetrating the D and getting the all important penalty corners. Also what is working in the team’s favour is with Gurbaj at the back, is playing a great role in ensuring that the opponents forwards do not find it easy in the D plus the fact that he even comes forward and attack which is proving to be a big boost for the team. Also the cool as a cucumber Simon Child alongwith Lloyd Norris-Jones and Akashdeep Singh are ensuring that they outwit the defence with their stick work and passes.
Roelant coached Uttar Pradesh Wizards has a formidable line up of players who have the competence to defeat any team on any given day. With their star goalkeeper P.R Sreejesh under the bar, defender duo of Wouter Jolie and V.R Raghunath will employ their best skills to convert the penalty corners into the vital goals for their side. The ace drag flicker – Raghunath has led his side to the semi finals of both the previous seasons of Hockey India League and this semi final being the third for the Wizards, the team will be looking to advance to the next stage of the League with a thunderous win over the Ranchi Rays. The Wizards also have the strong support of Ramandeep Singh who has made a brilliant comeback this season and is lending a very significant helping hand to Jeroen Hertzberger in further strengthening the forward line. With Bob De Voogd and Pradeep Mor taking care of the midfield in the semis, the entire Uttar Pradesh Wizards will step out on the ground to play with utmost coordination and clarity to ensure a way in into the finals of the League.
Amid an impressive array of foreign and domestic players, Ranchi Rays have dished out some absolutely astounding and beyond belief performances in the league matches as of yet. Striking a dramatic hat-trick in the last pool game, Captain Ashley Jackson shines bright with 11 goals to his name at this time and is perfectly held up by the English midfielder Barry Middleton and Indian defender Birendra Lakra. With Tyler Lovell guarding the nets for the side, Birendra Lakra and Justin Reid Ross will take care getting the penalty corners for the team as it will play a pivotal role in Ranchi Rays’ stride towards the finals. It is a team with a great formidable line-up and a team where all departments are delivering. From here the entire unit will look at continuing their form and winning momentum as they would like to repeat the feat of the first edition of the Hero Hockey India League.
Anticipating a good semi- final clash tomorrow, Coach of Jaypee Punjab Warriors Barry Dancer said, “It feels great to finish the league matches by being top of the points table. We are playing the semi- finals against Delhi Waveriders on Saturday and I am sure that it will be a tough game tomorrow. They have a good set of players and in order to combat the challenge, we will have to put in extra strength and double our efforts in order to win the match. We are working on our circle penetrations and ball possessions. The team is in full form and ready to put up a good show in the semi- final tomorrow.”
Speaking ahead of the semi-final match against Delhi Waveriders, Captain of Jaypee Punjab Warriors Jamie Dwyer said, “We are excited to play the semi-finals tomorrow against Delhi Waveriders who are equally strong. Although we have won all the matches played against Delhi Waveriders till now, but the challenge is going to be really tough. Tomorrow’s match is important for us as the results will have bearing on finals of the league. Our strategy would be to work on our strengths and improve upon the problem areas so as to convert maximum scoring opportunities into goals. We won the last match played against Dabang Mumbai which undoubtedly boost up our morale and confidence. So we need to keep the rhythm going and play a wonderful game.”
Speaking on the upcoming semi-final clash in HIL 2015, Coach of Delhi Waveriders Cedric D’ Souza said, “It will be a tough clash tomorrow as both teams have a lot of strengths. Past performances don’t mean anything at this point and it is all about performance on the given day. We have done our homework and will do our utmost to follow the plan and win. But it will all boil down to which team can control play and capitalize on the opportunities created.“
Confident of a good show tomorrow, Coach of Uttar Pradesh Wizards said, “It’s a big game tomorrow. We need to perform to our highest level that we have ever performed in the tournament. It’s a clash for the run to the final. We have to perform in the best possible way so that we have a chance to play the final of Hockey India League, this season (of HIL).”
Speaking ahead of the semi final, Captain of Ranchi Rays Ashley Jackson said, “The team has been in great form in the entire League (HIL) and from here we have to ensure we continue the same in the knock out stage also. Each player will have to deliver to beat the Wizards as they with each game have got stronger in all departments. Our focus will be to penetrate the D and create the penalty corners for ourselves as much as possible. Personally i will look at converting the penalty corners that the team gets. We will go on the attack from the start and ensure possession.”
Remarking on the impending match, Coach of Ranchi Rays, Harendra Singh said, “We have entered the knock-out stage and faltering is no option for us. The boys will have to ensure that they attack and do not allow them to put pressure on us. I am confident of a positive result. We will look at continuing our form tomorrow. Penalty corners will be the key tomorrow and the boys are ready for it.”
HIL 2015 Semi-Finals – February 21, 2015, New Delhi
Semi-Final 1 – 16:30hrs IST – Ranchi Rays VS Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
Semi Final 2 – 19:00hrs IST – Jaypee Punjab Warriors VS Delhi Waveriders
The HIL 2015 matches are telecast LIVE on Star Sports