HIL: Delhi, UPW maintain status quo with draw

The Uttar Pradesh Wizards kept its hopes alive for a semifinal spot in the Hockey India League with a polished performance in a 1-1 draw with Delhi Waveriders on Sunday.

DelhiWaveriders

Delhi Waveriders skipper Rupinder Pal Singh (right) celebrates after his team took the lead against Uttar Pradesh Wizards at Shivaji Stadium in New Delhi on Sunday.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Uttar Pradesh Wizards was in the unenviable position of playing its home game against Delhi Waveriders at the latter's home turf here on Sunday. The ongoing elections in UP have forced the team to play two of its five home matches here and the team needed to avoid a loss to keep its semifinal hopes alive. And it did so, managing to draw 1-1 to keep the leaderboard unchanged.

The last time the two teams faced off at the same venue, Delhi was the host and it slammed eight goals to win its first game of the season. It bounced back into contention for a semifinal spot and upended the points table. On Sunday, it was not just a far better performance from UPW but also a vastly different game with the midfield taking prominence.

Delhi was the more attacking of the two but while its offence came in waves, UPW oscillated between attack and defence in bursts. One of those waves saw Surender Kumar controlling the ball all the way from Delhi's half to put Niklas Wellen through, only to see it balloon off UPW goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh's pads for a penalty corner. This was duly converted by Rupinderpal Singh in the 22nd minute. Fifteen seconds after restart, UPW got a PC of its own that became a stroke when V.R. Raghunath's goal-bound shot hit Surender's body on the goal-line and Gonzalo Peillat made no mistake in levelling the scores.

Goalkeepers kept busy

The first quarter was completely dominated by Delhi - the host-which-wasn't - as Parvinder Singh and Mandeep Singh combined well to create chances. It also earned back-to-back penalty corners but both Rupinderpal Singh's and Austin Smith's shots were saved by UPW goalkeeper Sreejesh.

Sreejesh and Delhi custodian Vincent Vanasch were kept busy by the end-to-end game that saw both teams open up space and get the crosses in, only to be thwarted. Both saved at least three clear shots at goal though Sreejesh had to work harder against the more enterprising Delhi strike-duo of Junior World Cup team-mates Parvinder and Mandeep. Akashdeep Singh shouldered the burden of UPW's attack and, instead of going for goals, set up Ajay Yadav, Ramandeep Singh and Agustin Mazzilli in better positions.

UPW coach Roelant Oltmans admitted there were few good scoring chances from either end and a draw was a fair result. The fact that UPW has an extra game in hand compared to the rest might seem an advantage but playing home games at an away venue, he insisted, was of no help.

The result: Uttar Pradesh Wizards 1 (Gonzalo Peillat 1 PS) - Delhi Waveriders 1 (Rupinderpal Singh 1 PC).