HIL: Lancers keen to tighten up defence

Following their unexpected last-minute defeat to Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the opening match of the Hockey India League (HIL), Kalinga Lancers are trying to learn their captain and German stalwart Moritz Fuerste's mantra – 'Offence wins games but defence wins tournaments.'

Kalinga Lancers (in orange) conceded two late goals to go down against UP Wizards.   -  PTI

Following their unexpected last-minute defeat to Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the opening match of the Hockey India League (HIL), Kalinga Lancers are trying to learn their captain and German stalwart Moritz Fuerste's mantra – 'Offence wins games but defence wins tournaments.'

Leading 6-4 till the 59th minute, Lancers conceded two goals in the final minute to go down 6-8 against Wizards. Ahead of their next engagement against Dabang Mumbai at the Kalinga Stadium here on Thursday, Lancers are keen to plug the holes in their defence.

“We have to learn quickly that we do not need that many numbers (players) in the attack with 30 seconds to go. We just need to be a little bit smarter and hold the ball better upfront. We played three good quarters and the last quarter we did not play well. We gave them too much room and were poor defensively,” admitted Lancers coach Mark Hager on Wednesday.

Hager said since Mumbai were yet to play any match it would be difficult to assess the side. “They have some young Indians and good foreign players. They will have no fear because they are young. They have nothing to lose.”

Hager did not feel the necessity to alter his game plan, which meant Lancers, led by Glenn Turner upfront, would continue with their attacking style of play while taking care to protect their post. “We want to play similar to the way we played against UP. We just need to be better defensively. As Moritz always says, 'Offence wins games, but defence wins tournaments’,” said Hager.

Mumbai are a balanced side. Led by German Florian Fuchs and Aussie Keiran Govers, they have some effective Indians in Roshan Minz, Affan Yousuf, Nikkin Thimmaiah and the lesser-known Swede Johan Bjorkman as the strike force.

Drag-flickers Jeremy Hayward, Diwakar Ram and Harmanpreet Singh provide good variations for penalty corners. The midfield is solid too.“We have created an environment for our players to express themselves...If you have more options, then better is the chance to surprise the opposition,” said Mumbai coach Jay Stacy.