New Delhi: Delhi Waveriders consolidated their position on top of the Hockey India League (HIL) leaderboard with a 3-0 win over Punjab Warriors here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Tuesday, which means they stay unbeaten in the competition.
The 5 points Delhi earned took them to 32 - five ahead of second-placed Ranchi Rhinos. On the other hand Punjab remained at third with 20, chased closely by UP Wizards who are at fourth place with 17 points having played a game less than Punjab.
The match got off to a sluggish start until Punjab's Jarmanpreet Singh got the opportunity to put his side ahead. However, his shot went across the Delhi goal unharmed. Delhi woke up to action in the last 5 minutes of the first quarter when Akashdeep Singh, after receiving a ball on his wrong side, beat Jaap Stockmann with a reverse hit in the 14th minute.
Both the teams looked a bit more proactive in the second quarter but continued to miss chances, including a sitter by Punjab's seasoned India forward SV Sunil whose shot lacked power to beat Delhi custodian Nicolas Jacobi. Delhi then stitched a couple of meaningful moves but were let down first by Matt Gohdes, who failed to trap cleanly, and then by skipper Sardar Singh whose weak push thudded into Stockmann's pads.
Delhi were finally able to get a cushion in the 51st minute off their second penalty corner, which was deposited into the Punjab goal by Andrew Hayward's crisp flick. Punjab then resorted to dire measures, including an empty goal with Stockmann taken off, but it backfired. Simon Child, who has come in as replacement for one of Delhi's two Pakistani players, got to the end of a neat pass from Gurvinder Singh Chandi in the last minute and made no mistake to put it into the net and settle the issue.
Punjab coaching staff surprised fans and experts alike by losing on a point by allowing Delhi to take advantage of an empty goal and score for the third time. That cost Punjab a point which could prove crucial in deciding the semi-final line-up. But Punjab coach, Barry Dancer, though not entering Delhi's 25-yard and lack of coordination cost them the match.
"Our performance was disappointing today," Dancer said. "There were areas in which we improved during our previous games but didn't put it to use today. We lacked in entering the opponents 25, skill execution and the basic coordination of players. We hope to play more consistently in our future games and we will win against Delhi Waveriders when we play them in Jalandhar."