Lying at the bottom of the points table, Uttar Pradesh Wizards roared to a thumping 3-1 (6-2) victory over Jaypee Punjab Wizards in the Hockey India League on Monday.
Shamsher Singh (5th min), Ajay Yadav (39th) and Akashdeep Singh (58th) scored for UP Wizards while Dutch star Mirco Pruijser (31st) had found the equaliser for Punjab, all field goals. Each field goal counts as two in HIL.
The Indian team’s high performance director, Roelant Oltmans, was proud to see his team shake off their slumber in emphatic fashion.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards had just one win in the six-team league before the Chandigarh tie, but raised their level, handing Punjab Warriors their second successive defeat in the league.
The VR Raghunath-led UP Wizards scored three field goals to race ahead while hosts Punjab Warriors succumbed to pressure and the splendid game plan of the visitors.
Both the teams started on an attacking note. However, Uttar Pradesh pressed hard and Shamsher Singh scored in the fifth minute. Both teams forced two penalty corners in the first quarter, but failed to convert them.
The Punjab team came charged in the second quarter and Pruijser fired in a field goal to equalise in the very first minute. But the hosts could not sustain that momentum.
Cashing in on Warriors’ weak defence, Ajay Tyagi scored to help Wizards regain the lead. In the last quarter, UP played safe and did not attack. However, Akashdeep scored another stellar field goal in the dying minutes.
Following the win, UP Wizards have 15 points and have moved up a place in the table.
Praise for youth
After the match, Wizards coach Oltmans said, “I am happy to see the youngsters putting in extra effort and delivering the goods. Credit goes to the young lot of the team, who played outstandingly today and kept Punjab on their toes. This win will boost the morale and prepare us better for the upcoming matches. We have a slight disadvantage of losing our home matches due to state elections. Having said that we would like to pick up momentum and look for as many victories as we can.”
Punjab Warriors captain Knowles Mark accepted his team missed chances. “We were a bit shoddy on the field today and did not play clean hockey. It has been gruelling for us too. We have played six matches in 12 days. We will re-group in the small break we have got and the coaches will work on our problem areas. We will make a comeback. The good thing is we are still alive in the tournament.” Punjab face Delhi Waveriders next on Feb 17.