Delhi Waveriders finally opened its account in the fifth season of the Hockey India League with a comprehensive 8-1 win over Uttar Pradesh Wizards at the Shivaji Stadium here on Wednesday, lifting itself up off the bottom place in the process. This was, incidentally, more than the team had managed to score in its four games so far as the former champion emphatically bounced back into contention.
Mandeep Singh was once again the star of the home side, scoring two field goals (that count for four) and also creating a couple of penalty corners which, however, went waste. Mandeep was always in the right place at the right time and his speedy runs to snatch possession was a testament to the supreme levels of fitness the Indian players, specially the juniors, outrunning most of the foreign stars.
One of those runs saw him racing Seve van Ass for the ball across the length of the field and winning, taking control of a diagonal pass from Talwinder Singh, turning and slotting the ball under P.R. Sreejesh's legs in the third minute of the game itself.
Delhi had made its attacking intentions clear in the previous game against Punjab but was off-target and misfiring. Against Uttar Pradesh Wizards, the finishing was far better and the team looked decidedly far superior. Delhi's defenses had already been among the most compact this season and it lived up to its reputation as Rupinder Pal Singh and Iain Lewers kept the Wizards' strikers at bay and Vincent Vanasche cleared anything dangerous, including two penalty corner attempts by Gonzalo Peillat.
In contrast, Wizards attacked in bursts, but was unable to make its chances, few and far between as they were, count. P.R. Aiyappa and Shamsher Singh missed sitters each, as did Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh. Raghunath did manage to reduce the margin putting the ball into the net through penalty corner, but a second field goal by Mandeep five seconds before half time put the host in command.
As the Wizards stepped up the pace in search of goals, it left its defences open and Parvinder Singh, put through by Mandeep, and Austin Smith, set up by Talwinder, added their names to the scoresheets in the last four minutes as Sreejesh cut a lonely figure in the striking circle. Wizards seemed to have given up the battle towards the end, but for a team desperate for its first win of the tournament, Delhi would be pleased with the result.
The result: Delhi Waveriders 8 (Mandeep Singh 4 FG, Parvinder Singh 2 FG, Austin Smith 2 FG) bt Uttar Pradesh Wizards 1 (V.R. Raghunath 1 PC).