HIL: Punjab Warriros beat Delhi Waveriders 3-1

New Delhi: Three goals in final quarter helped Punjab Warriors defeat Delhi Waveriders 3-1 and maintain their position at the top of the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) standings at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Friday.

Warriors conceded an early goal from Akashdep Singh (third minute) but staged a stunning comeback in the final quarter. Christopher Ciriello (50th), S.V. Sunil (54) and Affan Yousuf (56th) scored to dump the defending champions to the sixth place.

Delhi started on a bright note and made early inroads into the visitors’ defence. In the third minute, Akashdeep Singh crossed it to make it 1-0.

Punjab looked more organised later on, especially in the defence. With the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Player of the Year Mark Knowles serving a one-match suspension, another veteran Australian Rob Hammond rose to the occasion and showed that despite his international retirement, he possesses the attributes which made him one of the best holding midfielder of the game.

The FIH Goalkeeper of the Year Jaap Stockmaan also played a crucial role in keeping Delhi at bay. The Dutchman thwarted several Delhi moves in front of the goal with his tenacity and agility.

However, Punjab’s Australian penalty corner specialist Ciriello failed to convert thrice. Punjab forwards Sunil, Jake Whetton, Simon Orchard and Agustin Mazzilli kept them in the game.

As soon as the final quarter began, Punjab pressed hard and were rewarded with a penalty corner in the 50th minute that was converted by Ciriello as the Australian fired it to the top right of the hosts South African goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse.

Delhi lost ace defender Rupinderpal Singh due to a yellow card, leaving their backline fragile. Warriors made most of it as Yousuf made an aerial cross for Sunil. Sunil received with ultimate skill and slotted home to make it 2-1.

Two minutes later, Argentine forward Mazzilli dived and made a backhand pass for young Yousuf, who sounded the board with a reverse-hand tap.

A 3-1 lead was enough for the visitors to maintain for the next dew minutes and they took their tally to 17 points.