Holders Jaypee Punjab Warriors scored a 2-1 win over Delhi Waveriders in the preliminary round match of the Hockey India League here at the Shivaji Stadium on Tuesday, handing the hosts their third defeat in four matches.
With a field goal and penalty conversion, Punjab got three points while Delhi logged two points from their field goal (3-2).
Punjab owed their victory to Dutch drag-flicker Mink van der Weerden, who slotted home the team’s second penalty corner in the final quarter.
It turned out to be the match-winner as Delhi, who have struggled to score goal, could not make an impression inside the scoring circle in the closing stages of the encounter.
Punjab made their intentions clear from the word go by testing Delhi’s defence. Swift raids into the rival territory thrice in the span of eight minutes didn’t immediately breach the defence, but it started wilting under pressure as the match progressed.
The porous defence ultimately paved the way for Punjab’s victory. In a keenly contested encounter, Delhi’s desperation to gain the upper hand in the opening quarter in fact proved its undoing as they missed scoring chances, hinting at a lack of form.
Delhi’s international striker Mandeep Singh missed a couple of scoring chances in the first 30 minutes, while Rupinder Pal Singh’s drag flicks wasn’t effective. He missed two penalty corners in the first two quarters.
This let-off was cashed in by Punjab skipper Sardar Singh. Following a swift counter attack in the 15th minute, off a pass from Satbir Singh, Robert van der Horst received the ball on the edge of striking circle, and dribbled past two defenders to slot home. For each field goal team is awarded two points, while penalty corner fetches one.
Delhi, after missing goal-scoring opportunities in the opening two quarters, pulled up their socks and Tristan White made no mistake to restore parity in the 39th minute, but it proved temporary as Delhi continued to miss in the crucial fourth quarter.
Instead of propping up their performance, Delhi lost focus and became more error prone. Rupinder Pal continued to falter in penalty corner conversions, while an over enthusiastic Mandeep Singh lost control of the ball on several occasions when he had only the goalkeeper to beat.
On the other hand, Punjab grabbed an opportunity in the 53rd minute, converting a penalty corner. Dutchman Van der Weerden was positioned perfectly to push the ball home.
With time ticking away, the home team made desperate attempts to find an equalizer, but again failed to find the right combination.