HIL: Punjab bows out with a win

Jaypee Punjab Warriors scored a 1-0 win against Uttar Pradesh Wizards but the narrow win was not enough to keep it in the race for the Hockey India League (HIL) playoffs as the defending champion bowed out of the competition here on Monday.

Punjab Warriors

Punjab Warriors had all but given up on advancing after losing its penultimate match and Monday's game was more about playing for pride than anything else. (File photo)   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Jaypee Punjab Warriors scored a 1-0 win against Uttar Pradesh Wizards but the narrow win was not enough to keep it in the race for the Hockey India League (HIL) playoffs as the defending champion bowed out of the competition here on Monday.

Punjab had all but given up on advancing after losing its penultimate match and Monday's game was more about playing for pride than anything else. Given the permutations of the leaderboard, JPW knew it needed a big win to stay in the race by virtue of more wins. And even though the team knew there was little chance, it tried its best, playing an attacking game and creating several chances upfront.

With most of its moves orchestrated from the right, S.V. Sunil had a busy day. Everyone who had the ball for JPW tried to set up a goal. Sunil, Mirco Pruijser and even Sardar Singh and Mark Knowles took shots at goal but hit wide even as UPW goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh tried to foil the moves. V.R. Raghunath and Arthur van Doren beefed up the defence.

UPW had a lot more possession – at one point, it was almost 60 per cent — but the Punjab midfield of Sardar Singh and Mark Knowles and Jake Whetton ensured the ball did not reach the shooting circle or get dangerous most of the times. Sardar and Knowles both were in good form after a series of disappointing performances in the previous games, taking lead in controlling the situation and guiding the youngsters.

The Wizards though gradually grew in the game after a cautious start. But once it got going, Tristan Clemons had to stretch himself to the fullest to deny UPW. Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Agustin Mazzilli kept shooting at the goal, only to find the ball hitting Clemons' pads or gloves.

The desperation was compounded by neither team managing to even stop the ball properly during penalty corners. In fact, the only time it was done, Mink van der Weerden slammed the ball in for the only goal of the match in the 35th minute. UPW also conceded a lot more turnovers, failing to keep control of the ball at crucial moments.

The result makes the four semifinalists all but confirmed with two league matches yet to be played. Even though Ranchi is still in with a chance to go level on points with Delhi Waveriders and UPW, the goal difference of -5 means it would have to score big and expect UPW (+9 GD) to lose by an even bigger margin to make the cut. Right now, that doesn't seem possible.

The result: Jaypee Punjab Warriors 1 (Mink van der Weerden 1 PC) bt Uttar Pradesh Wizards 0.