Delhi Waveriders scored a clinical 3-1 win over Punjab Warriors on Saturday to set up a title clash with Ranchi Rhinos in the inaugural Hockey India League here.
The Delhi outfit rode on goals from Andres Mir Bel (14th minute), Rupinder Pal Singh (32nd) and Lloyd Norris Jones (67th) to outclass the Warriors in the second semifinal.
For the Punjab outfit Jamie Dwyer scored the consolation goal in the 33rd minute.
Warriors will now play Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the play-off match for third place on Sunday.
Earlier in the first semifinal, Mandeep Singh and Nick Wilson scored a brace each to help Rhinos defeat Wizards 4-2.
Rhinos scored through field goals from Mandeep (5th, 66th) and Wilson (32nd, 64th), while Nithin Thimmaiah (16th, 54th) was the goal-getter for Wizards.
The Rhinos, however, were the better side on display in the opening half. The host earned as many as four penalty corners in the first two quarters only to be denied by a brilliant George Bazeley under the UP bar.
It took two brilliant field goals from the Rhinos in a span of three minutes to seal the game and a place in Sunday’s title clash in their favour.
Victorious Ranchi coach Gregg Clarke and skipper Moritz Furste was full of praise for Mandeep, terming the young forward as the future star of Indian hockey. “Mandeep was simply brilliant. When we first saw him he was a little boy just jumping around the field. But he has evolved as a player as the tournament progressed,” Clarke said.
The contest between Waveriders and Warriors witnessed a slow start as both teams took time to get off their blocks. The Delhi outfit was more aggressive in the initial stages but with time the Warriors began to catch up. Delhi was structured and solid in defence upfront.
It was Warriors who got the first penalty corner of the match in the 12th minute but it was turned down after a referral appeal by Waveriders.
Warriors, however, conceded a penalty corner in the subsequent counter-attack and Waveriders took full advantage of it to go 1-0 up. Andres scored an improvised goal from the set piece after he was beautifully set up by Rupinder.
Had it not been for an alert Jacob Stockmann under the Warriors goal, Waveriders could have scored two more goals in the first quarter.
Waveriders doubled the lead in the 32nd minute when Rupinder scored from the team’s third penalty corner with a fierce flick.Warriors responded in the very next minute when Dwyer scored with a fierce shot from close range after getting a rebound to trail 1-2 at the halfway stage.
It was again Waveriders who came close to scoring in the 52nd minute, but Warriors’ reserve goalkeeper Bharat Chetri made an acrobatic save to deny Danish Mujataba. Warriors wasted three penalty corners in succession in the fourth quarter.
Warriors went on the attack and left huge gaps in their backline and Waveriders were quick to cash in. An unmarked Norris Jones took the game beyond the Warriors’ grasp with a fine goal just three minutes from the hooter.
The results (semifinals):
Ranchi Rhinos 4 (Mandeeep Singh 5, 66, Nick Wilson 32, 64) bt Uttar Pradesh Wizards 2 (Nithin Thimmaiah 16, 54).
Delhi Waveriders 3 (Andres Mir Bel 14, Rupinder Pal Singh 32, Norris Jones 67) bt Punjab Warriors 1 (Jamie Dwyer 33). — PTI