Kalinga Lancers eked out a close 6-5 win over Jaypee Punjab Warriors, their first-ever victory against the defending champions, to jump to the top of the standings in the fifth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) in Bhubaneswar on Friday.
German stalwart Moritz Fuerste struck twice (18th and 28th minutes) while Glenn Turner (11th) and SK Uthappa (32nd) also found the net to ensure the home team bagged five points from the match, despite a late surge by the visitors.
The encounter between Kalinga Lancers and defending Champions Punjab Warriors brought back memories from last year’s HIL when the two top teams met in the final and this time Kalinga Lancers avenged their loss.
Playing in front of an enthusiastic and loud Bhubaneswar crowd, there was was no doubt this game was of high stakes for the hosts and they did not disappoint.
The first quarter witnessed the two teams trading penalty corners and it was Punjab Warriors who won the match’s first short corner, thanks to Jake Whetton. The visitors found a perfect chance to take the lead in only the second minute of the match.
Though Mink Van Der Weerden successfully converted the chance, the umpire denied them the early lead as the ball was trapped within the circle and not outside.
Kalinga Lancers won their first penalty corner in the ninth minute, but the flick by Gurjinder Singh was brilliantly saved by Tristan Clemons.
But the home team was unrelenting and desperate to get off to a good start they pressed hard and it paid off when Glenn Turner struck early.
It was Matthew Dawson’s perfect pass forward that found Turner within the circle who tapped it fiercely into the post giving the home team a 2-0 lead in the 11th minute.
The home team continued to dominate the second quarter too as they found yet another break through their skipper Moritz Fuerste, who successfully used the video referral to win his team their second penalty corner.
The German is rarely off the mark when it comes to converting penalty corners and this time too he was inch perfect when he deflected the ball between Clements legs, after an improvised injection by Turner. This took the Kalinga Lancers score to 3-0.
The Kalinga Lancers played an inspired game making plenty of forays into the striking circle, but couldn’t quite convert a field goal. But the pressure saw Punjab Warriors defenders fumble in their circle, gifting Kalinga Lancers their third penalty corner. It was in-form Fuerste who took the flick again and he showcased precision yet again in the 28th minute to hand his team a comfortable 4-0 lead at half time.
Uthappa starred in the third quarter for Kalinga Lancers when he fired an electric counter attack, intercepting the Punjab Warriors defender only to race into the circle working with Turner to put one past the keeper in the 32nd minute.
The defending champions finally pulled one through a field goal by Mark Gleghorne in the 34th minutue. Punjab Warriors converted another goal, this time through a penalty corner which was converted by Satbir Singh from a rebound in the 35th minute to reduce the deficit to three goals.
The final quarter saw some tense moments with Punjab Warriors making desperate attempt to come back into the game.
Despite the home team’s defenders doing their best to keep the lead, Punjab Warriors won a penalty corner in the 52nd minute and Mink Wan Der Weerden converted this time, closing their goal difference to 4-6.
SV Sunil won the visitors yet another penalty corner in the dying minutes of the match and a stunning variation attempt for a field goal was successfully converted by Arman Qureshi in the 57th minute but the goal counted for just one instead of two as it was trapped by Robert Van Der Horst inside the five-meter circle.