HIL: UP Wizards seal semi-final spot after 4-4 draw against Mumbai

Lucknow, Feb 22 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Wizards and Dabang Mumbai played out a 4-4 draw as the hosts sealed a spot in the semi-finals of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) here on Wednesday.

The draw took third-placed UP Wizards’ points tally to 25 as they set up a semi-final against second-placed Kalinga Lancers (28 points), while table-toppers Mumbai (35 points) and fourth-placed Delhi Waveriders (23 points with a goal difference of 6) play the other last four clash.

Ranchi Rays, who also have 23 points but are behind on goal difference to Delhi, and defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors (22 points) have been eliminated.

The final league stage game here had little significance for Mumbai and for UP Wizards, it was a matter of not losing by a goal difference of more than 10 to allow Ranchi to enter the knockouts.

Both the teams played fast and attacking hockey from the push-back. Due to the all-out hockey, the defensive structures of both the teams were left neglected.

The game witnessed a thrilling start, with the teams scoring two field goals each in the first 20 minutes.

Ajay Yadav gave the hosts the deserving lead in the 12th minute with a strong finish from a difficult angle from the right. But Mumbai levelled a minute later as Manpreet Singh’s brilliant build-up play and baseline cross from the right was put in by Gurjant Singh.

UP Wizards regained the lead as Ramandeep Singh employed a back-hander from the right to beat goalkeeper David Harte in the 17th minute.

However, Mumbai equalised again two minutes later. Florian Fuchs passed to Robert Kemperman from the top of the circle and the latter’s cut-back from the left baseline enabled Manpreet to drive it home.

After the initial drama, the actions even though were there, there was obvious signs of the players being tired after a 20-minute of carnage.

Especially at the third quarter, the play was focused in the midfield as the teams decided to keep things under control. In the final quarter, Akashdeep for UP Wizards with a backhander had the chance to break the deadlock but Mumbai’s Irish custodian Harte made a diving save.

In the dying seconds, Argentine drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat got two chances but his flicks went wayward, ensuring the game ends in a draw.

–IANS

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