Delhi outsmart Mumbai to shoot to top of table

Mumbai: Delhi Waveriders got the better of a fighting Mumbai Magicians 6-4 to jump to the top of the Hockey India League table at the MHA Mahindra Stadium here on Monday.

In a game in which fortunes fluctuated wildly, Mumbai took the lead and then conceded three goals to be 1-3 down at the halfway stage, before storming their way back with some superb play in the third quarter to move up 4-3.

But Delhi`s superior passing skills and timely interceptions helped the visitors pump in three quick goals in the initial stages of the fourth quarter to quell Mumbai`s hopes of breaking their losing streak in the five-team league.

The defeat was Mumbai`s fourth straight, and second in as many days at home, but the margin of loss ensured they picked up one more point to take the tally to four.

Delhi, with their third win in four games, shot to the top with a tally of 17, five ahead of Uttar Pradesh Wizards who have played one fewer game.

Delhi`s goal-getters in the high-scoring match were Oskar Deecke, Norris Jones Lloyd, Danish Mujtaba, Akashdeep Singh, Andreas Mir Bel and Simon Child.

For Mumbai, their penalty corner expert Sandeep Singh scored twice off set-pieces, while the other two goals were notched by Glenn Turner and Jason Wilson.

Mumbai, beaten 2-1 by Delhi in their previous encounter in the latter`s backyard, started the return game with a narrow escape when Akashdeep Singh`s deflection from a fine right centre by Gurvinder Chandi went wide of the far post.

Mumbai took the lead against the run of play through their penalty corner ace Sandeep Singh who sounded the board nonchalantly off their first award in the eighth minute.

Stung to the quick, Delhi hit back six minutes later when a fine pass by Akashdeep from the top of the D went to an unmarked Deecke, who struck home past the hapless home team custodian P T Rao.

Rao started the game in place of India goalkeeper P R Sreejesh who had conceded four goals to Punjab Warriors yesterday. But the latter came on to do some good work in the second half of the match.

Mumbai earned a short corner just before the end of the first quarter which was wasted.

Punjab slammed in two goals in short time in the second quarter to take a handy 3-1 lead.

Norris Jones put the visitors 2-1 in front by going on a short solo to fire the ball in and four minutes later, in the 26th minute of the game, Danish Mujtaba controlled a rebound off Mumbai custodian Rao`s pads to score.

At the other end, Mumbai were thwarted by an alert rival custodian Jacobi Nicholas following a diagonal hit into the circle by Joel Carroll.

Mumbai earned a short corner just before the half time hooter but Sandeep Singh`s drag flick was way off target and the second quarter ended with Delhi 3-1 in front.

Crossing over, Mumbai were again at the receiving end as the visiting team forced two short corners in close succession but failed to score off both as Sreejesh, who had replaced Rao, was agile enough to block the shots taken by the tall Rajinder Pal Singh.

Mumbai then earned their fourth penalty corner and Sandeep`s try was deflected to the roof by Glenn turner to reduce the margin (3-2).

Delhi were thwarted by Sreejesh again when he stood between the quick flick by Imran Khan and the goal.

Mumbai equalised by earning their fifth penalty corner and Jason Wilson found the mark and almost immediately got their sixth, which, too, was converted by Sandeep Singh for his second goal of the game.

But Mumbai`s joy of pumping in two goals in three minutes was short-lived as Delhi equalised through a brilliant effort by a diving Akashdeep just before the end of the third quarter, off a cross from Chandi.

Delhi started pressing soon after play began in the final quarter and earned two short corners back-to-back. Off the second they took the lead again (5-4) when Andreas Mir Bel, after a poor stop, dribbled into the circle and hit an angular shot from the left past the left of Sreejesh beating the India keeper hands down.

Captain Sardar Singh, who initiated most of the moves on the right flank, fed Chandi who in turn crossed to Simon Child for the last-named to score from close to put Delhi further ahead 6-4 with 13 minutes left.

The rest of the period was dominated by the visitors with Mumbai defending desperately.