HIL: Goalkeeper Charter takes Kalinga to second successive final

Chandigarh, Feb 25 (IANS) Andrew Charter put up a superb show under the bar to guide Kalinga Lancers to their second consecutive final of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) as they prevailed over Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-3 (4-4) via penalty shoot-out at the Chandigarh Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.

The match went to the penalty shoot-out after Akashdeep Singh’s 58th goal enabled UP Wizards to equalise after last edition’s runners-up Kalinga, with goals from Devinder Walmiki (ninth), Moritz Furste (35th) and Billy Bakker (46th), mounted a strong comeback following Florent van Aubel’s fourth minute strike.

Australian Charter not only came off with heroics during the regulation play, but also in the penalty shoot-out as Kalinga saw their first two hits of Furste and Adam Dixon wasted thanks to P.R. Sreejesh and UP Wizards going 2-0 up with clinical conversions from Gonzalo Peillat (penalty stroke) and van Aubel.

Lalit Upadhyay and Aran Zalewski brought Kalinga back in contention in the shoot-out, while Charter denied Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep. Next, Dharamvir Singh fumbled and as did Sander Baart as the game moved to the sudden death.

Charter then again rescued Kalinga by dismissing Augustin Mazzilli. But then Furste failed again and van Aubel continued to be impressive on the day to make it 3-2. Upadhyay levelled it 4-3 and Charter ensured that the goal post looks big for Akashdeep, who was denied by the cross-bar. And Zalewski scored past an imposing Sreejesh to trigger wild celebrations in the Kalinga camp, ending UP Wizards’ campaign in the semi-finals for the fourth time in five years.

Charter was tested from the very beginning of the match with offensive actions being witnessed at the both ends. UP Wizards got a penalty corner dismissed in the third minute but they managed to draw the first blood a minute later when a 30-yard long ball from Belgian defender Arthur van Doren was deflected in by compatriot van Aubel.

Kalinga didn’t take much time to respond and pulled one back when Devinder deflected home a slap shot from Matthew Dawson following a mistrap of a penalty corner execution.

Charter was kept busy by UP Wizards and the Australian had to block drag-flicks from Gonzalo Peillat and V.R. Raghunath to the left post and couple of minutes later, Akashdeep Singh’s drive went inches away from the right post.

Kalinga’s tactic of going out all attack meant that UP Wizards always found the space to attack and the Lucknow outfit closed the space further with a heavy midfield. They had the better share of the ball possession which translated into putting plenty of pressure on the Kalinag’s young defenders Matthew Dawson, Pardeep Mor, Amit Rohidas and Gurjinder Singh.

As the heavy midfield of UP Wizards was proving too heavy for Kalinga, Kalinga dropped attacking playmaker Billy Bakker further behind to help out the defence after the half-time.

And even though UP Wizards kept building chances and not making them count, Kalinga pulled level 2-2 in the 35th minute when drag-flicker Furste fired a grounder to the left post to beat Sreejesh.

Furste was at it again in the final minutes of the third quarter with two penalty corner chances but his flicks were defused by first runner Raghunath.

Kalinga, howver, managed to take the lead one minute into the fourth and final quarter as a cross from left by Gurjinder Singh was not cleared to safety by goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh and Dutchman Bakker grabbed the ball and made a body turn before hitting it to the roof.

The goal turned the heat on UP Wizards and Kalinga kept coming at them in their boost to seal the game.

When another semi-final exit, their fourth inevitable, But UP Wizards found the equaliser two minutes and six seconds to go. Sander Baart’s drive from the edge of the circle on the right was dealt with a poor clearance and Augustin Mazzilli snatched it before passing into an unmarked Akashdeep, who scored an open goal to take the game to the shoot-out where Kalinga prevailed.

–IANS

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