Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sandeep does balle balle as Jaypee Punjab Warriors beat Ranchi Rhinos to reach maiden HIL final

Jaypee Punjab Warriors made their maiden final appearance in the 2nd Hero Hockey India League, scraping past defending champions Ranchi Rhinos 3-2 at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi.

It was the Warriors who first threatened the Rhinos citadel when talented youngster Affan Yousuf unleashed a rasping reverse shot, which was well saved by Spanish goalkeeper Francisco Cortes in the 5th minute.

The Rhinos, egged on by a boisterous home crowd, triggered even higher decibels levels at the Stadium when English playmaker Ashley Jackson converted their first penalty corner in the 14th minute beating Warriors’ in-form Dutch goalie Jaap Stockmaan to his right after the set-piece was created by Floris Evers.

The Warriors, who were required to counter the strong home crowd support besides their opposition, silence the home crowd when Sandeep Singh converted their opening short corner in the 23th minute – his 10th goal of the 2014 HIL – the drag-flicker is all set to the top goal-scorer for the second year on the trot.

The Rhinos could have gone pulled ahead but South African full-back Justin Reid-Ross could not profit from their second PC in the 26th minute. Soon it was the turn of the Warriors to earn their second penalty corner, but Francisco Cortes denied them with some stout goalkeeping as both teams went into half-time with the scoreline reading 1-1.

The Warriors were well served by Affan Yousuf who created his team’s third penalty corner, which resulted in back-to-back PCs, but Rob Hammond’s mistrapping left proved to be their undoing.

But the Barry Dancer-coached side went ahead when Sandeep Singh made the most of their 5th penalty corner when he whipped home a flick to the left of Francisco Cortes in the dying moments of the third quarter.

The Punjab outfit enhanced the lead early in the final quarter when Aussie Jake Whetton churned out a superb goal. Trailing 1-3 with sixteen minutes to go for the final hooter, the Rhinos suffered a setback when Manpreet Singh was yellow-carded after a nasty tussle with Gurmail Singh, who was also given the temporary marching orders.

Dutchman Floris Evers lifted the fortunes of Rhinos when he reduced the deficit five minutes later through Floris Evers, who made the most of a move created by Moritz Furste and Justin Reid-Ross. The Rhinos had a great opportunity to bring the contest on level terms when they forced a PC in the final minute of play, but Jaap Stockmann produced a magnificent save diving to his right to push Ashley Jackson’s flick wide.

The Warriors will now face Delhi Waveriders in Sunday's final - the Delhi outfit had earlier put it across Uttar Pradesh Wizards 1-0 in the first semifinal. Ranchi Rhinos meet Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the 3rd place play-off tie.

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