Thursday, February 13, 2014

UP Wizards sneak past Kalinga Lancers 4-3

Uttar Pradesh Wizards pulled off an exciting 4-3 win over Kalinga Lancers in the 2nd Hero Hockey India League at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. It was the Wizards, who made the early inroads, forcing back-to-back penalty corners, but skipper Vokkaliga Raghunath failed to profit from them.

The Roelant Oltmans-coached side atoned for that PC slip-up when gangling Nithin Thimmaiah slammed home a fierce shot from the top of the striking circle to silence the boisterous home crowd.

Stung by the early goal, the Lancers came out fighting and forced two short corners in quick succession, but Wizards’ Australian goalkeeper George Bazeley thwarted their designs with two decent saves.

The Wizards soon made them pay when Gunasekar doubled the lead off a PC rebound after Lancers’ goalie Harjot Singh blocked Vokkaliga Raghunath’s effort after the set-piece was created by Harjeet Singh. The goal was the 100th goal of the 2014 HIL.

The Lancers mounted a fightback in the second quarter when talented Lalit Upadhyay slotted home a superb goal as the Wizards led 2-1 at half-time.

The Wizards could have extended the lead but Raghunath banged their fourth PC wide in the third quarter. The UP outfit stole the thunder in the early stages of the fourth quarter when Nikin Thimmaiah scored in the 55th minute. The Lancers reduced the deficit three minutes later when Gagandeep Singh tapped home in a goalmouth melee.

The goal enlivened the spirits of the home crowd after they were deeply disappointed by the Wizards’ third goal. Argentine Gonzalo Peillat finally got it right with his penalty corners to make it 4-4 in the 61st minute. The Lancers had nine minutes to script a famous win, but the Wizards poured cold water on their hopes when seasoned former Indian striker Tushar Khandker scored a late goal to ensure full points for his side.

The Lancers had only themselves to blame for the end result as they frittered away numerous scoring against an UP outfit, who made the most of their scoring chances. With this loss, Lancers’ hopes of making it to the semifinals has taken a serious beating while the Wizards are virtually assured of a last-four spot.

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