Delhi Waveriders made its second successive final of the Hero-Hockey India League defeating Uttar Pradesh Wizards 1-0 in the first semifinal at the Morabadi Astroturf Stadium here on Saturday.
Forward Yuvraj Walmiki scored a field goal late in the first quarter to fetch the Waveriders’ winner.
Waveriders will take on Punjab Warriors which made its first entry in the final downing local favourite and defending champion Ranchi Rhinos 3-2 in the second semifinal.
Waveriders wrested the early initiative with some good ground play. Wizards had a chance to go ahead in the fourth minute, but Ramandeep Singh failed to connect a clever pass from Nikkin Thimmiah.
Waveriders regrouped quickly and earned the first penalty corner in the 11th minute. But, Rupinder Pal Singh found his drag-flick coming off the goal-post. Waveriders intensified their attacks and found the break in the 15th minute when Walmiki diverted home a pass from South African midfielder Lloyd Norris Jones.
Looking for the equaliser, Wizards went on a quick counter attack at the start of the second quarter and gained its first penalty corner in the 22nd minute. But aptain V.R. Raghunath saw his flick easily cleared.
Making good use of the flanks, Waveriders created another good opportunity in the 26th minute. But Walmiki was a trifle late this time as he failed to put stick to a diagonal shot at goalmouth from Gurbaj Singh.
Wizards had two penalty corners — one of which was given following a television referral — but both went waste as Raghunath shot the first one wide while the second one went off the cross-piece.
The costliest error was from forward S.K. Uthappa, who failed to slot the ball into an open goal when a cross from Australian midfielder Edward Ockenden reached him beating Waveriders goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi.
Rupinder Pal Singh, who played a key role in holding up the Waveriders defence in the face of a wave of Wizards attacks in the last two quarters, was named Man-of-the-match.
Drag-flick specialist Sandeep Singh converted two penalty-corners to realise a remarkable comeback win for the Warriors.
Forward Jake Whetton scored a fine field goal to complete the Warriors tally. Rhino found the lead through Ashley Jackson, who converted an early penalty corner, before Floris Evers reduced the margin late in the match.
Warriors hit back off a fine counter-attack early in the second quarter and earned its first penalty-corner in the 24th minute. Sandeep Singh made no mistake with his drag-flick to silence a 5000-strong crowd.
The host seemed to lose some steam in the third quarter when Warriors started regrouping. Sandeep Singh virtually took the match away from Rhinos in the 52nd minute when he flicked home his team’s fifth penalty corner to make it 2-1 and take his personal tally to 11 goals.
Rhinos could never recover from the crisis as Whetton finished another speedy counter-attack with a fine back-hand hit to make it 3-1 in the 55th minute. Though Evers pulled one back in the 59th, the effort came a bit too late.
The results: Punjab Warriors 3 (Sandeep Singh 24, 52, Jake Whetton 55) bt Ranchi Rhinos 2 (Ashley Jackson 14, Floris Evers 59).
Delhi Waveriders 1 (Yuvraj Walmiki 15) bt Uttar Pradesh Wizards 0.