New Delhi: High-flying Delhi Waveriders continued their unbeaten run in the inaugural Hockey India League as they thrashed Jaypee Punjab Warriors 3-0 in a round-robin match thereby ensuring a place in the last four of the cash-rich championship.
The Waveriders scored through Akashdeep Singh (14), Kiwi Andrew Hayward (52) and Simon Child (70th) to consolidate their position at the top of the league standings with 32 points from seven matches.
Irrespective of the loss, the Warriors continue to occupy the third spot in the points table with 21 points from eight games, behind second-placed Ranchi Rhinos (27).
As expected, the match started on a fast note and it was the Punjab outfit which dominated the early exchanges before the Waveriders started the catch up game successfully.
Dharamvir Singh got the first real scoring chance of the match in the sixth minute but his fierce shot from the right of the circle went wide.
After sitting back for the first 10 minutes, the Waveriders started to seize the initiative and earned their first penalty corner in the 12th minute which was wasted as the ball wasn`t stopped properly.
However, the Waveriders surged ahead two minutes later when Akashdeep scored with a stunning reverse hit after beating a couple of Punjab defenders inside the circle.
The Warriors got a golden opportunity to equalize in the 23rd minute but an unmarked S V Sunil shot wide after he was fed from the right flank by a beautiful one-two from Jamie Dwyer and Robert Hammond.
The Punjab side must also thank their alert Dutch custodian Jaap Stockmann who kept a clean slate in the opening half as he denied Delhi on at least two occasions in the last 10 minutes of the second quarter.
Both the teams started on a cautious note after the change of ends and were more focused on keeping the ball in their possession.
However, as the visitors who got the first scoring opportunity in the second half but once again it was an unmarked Sunil, who wasted the chance as he failed to stop a fine feed from the left flank.
The opportunistic Waveriders compounded Punjab`s problems soon and took a 2-0 lead when Hayward converted the hosts` second penalty corner in the 52nd minute to score his first goal in his maiden outing in the tournament.
Therafter, the Waveriders controlled the game as the Warriors found it difficult to snatch the ball away from the possession of the home team.
The Warriors` move to pull out their goalkeeper for another forward just three minutes from the hooter backfired as it not only cost them a goal but also a point.
According to the rules of the tournament, the visitors would have pocketed a point from the match had they lost the match by less than three-goal margin.
Child scored the third goal for the Waveriders pushing the ball in an open goal in the final minute of the match to add to Punjab`s agony.
While the Waveriders will play Ranchi Rhinos here tomorrow, the Warriors will take on bottom-placed Mumbai Magicians in Mumbai on January 31.
The Punjab side captain Jamie Dwyer was critical of the on-field umpiring in today’s game but said his team need to pull up their socks in the next game against Mumbai.
"We played our best hockey in the first quarter but they scored a soft goal from nowhere. Thereafter, we didn`t control the ball well. We really need a win against Mumbai," he said.
"The umpiring was disappointing. I feel we were denied 2-3 penalty corners by the umpires today. The umpires instead gave them a penalty corner which was not,? Dwyer said referring to Delhi’s second short corner from which they scored.
Asked about Punjab coach Barry Dancer`s move to pull out their goalkeeper for another forward in the last three minutes of the game which eventually cost the visitors a point, Dwyer said:"I have no idea about the move. It was the coach`s decision. We conceded a goal because of that but hopefully this point will not cost us a semifinal place."