Ranchi, Feb 23: Bollywood actor John Abraham‘s team Delhi Waveriders overcame Punjab Warriors in a sensational penalty shoot-out to capture their maiden Hockey India League (HIL) crown at the Morabadi Stadium here Sunday.
Waveriders, who finished runners-up in the inaugural HIL last year, were second time lucky as they beat Warriors 3-1 in the shoot-out after both teams scored three goals apiece during regular play. Goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi turned out to be the saviour for Waveriders in a high-scoring contest.
The Delhi team walked away with the title and Rs 2.5 crore in prize money while Warriors got half that amount.
Earlier Sunday, Ranchi Rhinos defeated Uttar Pradesh Wizards in another penalty shoot-out to finish third. It was tipped to be a cracker of a final with the top two teams of the league stage battling it out.
Warriors shocked Waveriders by scoring in the second minute through Mark Knowles. The Australian caught Jacobi off-guard with a rasping hit to the right side of the cage. While Warriors continued to attack, Waveriders managed a penalty corner against the momentum. Rupinder Pal Singh’s crisp strike was blocked by Lucas Rey, who was standing to the left of Warriors’ goalie Jaap Stockmann.
Warriors kept on creating chances, the two of which were saved brilliantly by German custodian Jacobi. Waveriders also started penetrating the circle often and found the crucial equalizer towards the end of second quarter. Lloyd Norris Joness’ reverse flick blasted into the net, orchestrating his run in from the left flank to good effect.
The Delhi franchise found themselves leading by a goal at the stroke of half time. Rupinder’s drag-flick was blocked but his skipper Sardar Singh intercepted the ball and swept it past Stockmann. The third quarter saw exhilarating stuff with Warriors scoring a double to take the lead once again before the match was leveled at 3-3.
Shivendra Singh added to the goal spree deflecting a lightening pass from Gurmail Singh into the net. Affan Yousuf whacked one inside to give Warriors the advantage which was negated by Waveriders forward Yuvraj Walmiki, whose diagonal hit from the right flank was too quick for Stockmann.
Warriors came out with strong purpose in the final quarter. They entered the striking circle repeatedly but all their attempts were thwarted by Jacobi. The Punjab outfit was disappointing in the shoot-out missing their first three attempts including one from their captain and Australian great Jamie Dwyer.
Veteran Rajpal Singh missed the lone chance for Waveriders while Australian Rob Hammond was the only one to convert for Punjab.
Leading 2-1, Steven Edwards needed to find the net to win it for his team and he did just that, sending a capacity crowd into raptures and triggering fireworks.
In the battle for bronze, Ranchi Rhinos and Uttar Pradesh Wizards were tied at 1-1 after 70 minutes. Drag-flick specialist V.R. Raghunath struck for Wizards in the 15th minute before Manrpeet Singh foxed three defenders to level the match in the 30th minute.
Ashley Jackson, captain Moritz Furste and Bosco del Perez scored for Rhinos in the shoot-out and the strikes from Wizards’ Nitin Thimmaiah and Edward Ockenden went in vain.
The Rhinos pocketed Rs.75 lakh as prize money.
By Bharat Sharma
Photos: John Abraham Instagram