Dabang Mumbai see off Delhi for hat-trick of wins in HIL 2017

Mumbai, Jan 30 (IANS) Affan Yousuf scored twice as Dabang Mumbai overcame a fighting Delhi Waveriders 3-2 to register a hat-trick of wins and extend their stay at the top of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium here on Monday.

Yousuf’s field goal in the 29th minute and a goal off a penalty corner rebound helped Mumbai go up 3-0 at half-time but successful penalty corner conversions from Justin Reid-Ross (43rd) Rupinder Pal Singh (54th) tested the home team’s resolve. But the visitors failed to find the equaliser.

With this win, Dabang Mumbai are on top with 17 points from four matches, while Delhi remained on the fifth spot with four points from three games. Ranchi Rays are third with 10 points but behind on goal difference to Kalinga, while Uttar Pradesh Wizards, with six points from two matches, are fourth.

Mumbai, coming into the match, with a 10-4 drubbing of the defending champions, were favourites but Delhi were the better of the two sides at the beginning, putting themselves regularly in Mumbai’s circle.

The first clear-cut opportunity fell to Mandeep Singh, who was not able to put the ball into an open net and then Mandeep Antil’s backhander went inches away from the near left post.

Then they bagged two penalty corners but they failed to utilise both of them towards the end of the first quarter. While Rupinder Pal Singh couldn’t evade the first runner, in the second penalty corner, Iain Lewers’ push was wayward.

The hosts turned the heat on Delhi in the second quarter and visiting goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch was asked to pull off a save each from Emmanuel Stockbroekx and Nikkin Thimmaiah.

Meanwhile, Delhi continued to make a mess of penalty corner opportunities — this time the ball was not trapped properly after being pushed.

Mumbai then upped the ante and broke the deadlock when Yousuf perfectly trapped a long ball drilled in by Harmanpreet and turned around his body facing the goal to send the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Vanasch.

The Belgian custodian conceded another goal a minute later when Yousuf lifted the ball in off a rebound from a penalty corner flick from Harmanpreet that hit the right post and moved the left.

With a handsome 3-0 lead at half-time, Mumbai enjoyed a strong third quarter but couldn’t build on their lead. A penalty corner chance miss and a Johan Bjorkman’s back-hander that went into the air behind the goal gave Delhi hopes of a comeback.

Three minutes from the end of the third quarter, Delhi reduced the difference to two as South African Reid-Ross’ powerful penalty corner flick went between goalkeeper David Harte and defender Sander de Wijn on the right.

The goal lifted Delhi’s spirits and a field goal, each counted as two in the HIL, meant that both the teams gave their maximum in the final quarter.

Delhi made their intentions clear by scoring their second goal with Rupinder’s flick beating a lethargic Kieran Govers at the right post in the 54th minute.

Two minutes later, Rupinder had the opportunity to put Delhi on level terms but his flick was blocked by Harte and the ball fell to striker Talwinder Singh, who also failed to lift the ball in from close range.

The visitors couldn’t find an equaliser as the hosts held on to the win.