Uttar Pradesh Wizards ended their home campaign with a 4-1 crucial win over Jaypee Punjab Warriors to jump to the third spot in the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) here on Wednesday.
Drag-flicker Mark Gleghrone (10th minute) gave Warriors the lead but Gonzalo Peillat (19th and 33rd minute) took his set-piece goal tally to eight before Augustin Mazzilli produced a stunning backhand field goal, counted as two in this edition of HIL, in the 43rd minute as Wizards pocketed five crucial points.
The win by three-goal margin helped the hosts jump two places to be third with 23 points from eight matches — same as second-placed Kalinga Lancers but behind on goal difference.
Warriors were fourth with 22 points from eight matches. No team has yet qualified for the semi-finals with Dabang Mumbai (19 points from seven games) and Delhi Waveriders (17 points from eight games) still in the race occupying fifth and sixth spot respectively. Defending champions Ranchi Rays have 27 points from seven matches to top the standings.
Warriors face a crucial away encounter against Dabang Mumbai on Friday while Wizards will be up against Rays on Saturday.
The match at the Dhyan Chand Sports College ground began at a very good pace as both the teams went for the kill from the push-back. Very early into the match, Warriors goalkeeper Tristian Clemons had to run out of the circle to fend off a brilliant solo run from the deep by home captain Wouter Jolie.
S.V. Sunil and Matt Gohdes were posing serious questions for Wizards and they earned a penalty corner in the eighth minute. English set-piece specialist Gleghorne was right on the ball to give Warriors the 1-0 lead.
Wizards came back strongly in the second quarter and earned a penalty corrner that was brilliantly saved by Clemons. On the rebound off Clemons, the hosts bagged another penalty corner in the 19th minute by playing to the foot of a defender and this time, Argentine Peillat fired a grounder to the right corner of Clemons to equalise 1-1.
Wizards grew stronger after the goal and with experienced Tobias Hauke and Eddie Ockenden creating a lot of opportunities from the midfield, their good work paid more dividends in the third quarter as Peillat returned to give the hosts a 2-1 lead with another successful penalty corner conversion in the 33rd minute.
Akashdeep Singh would have made it 4-1 when he raced inside the circle from the left with only goalkeeper Clemons to beat. Instead of rounding up Clemons, he went for an overhead chip, giving enough time for Baljit Singh to put it away on the goal-line.
However, a few minutes later they did make it 4-1 when German midfielder Tobias Hauke showed brilliant skills and cleared the midfield crossing over from left to the right before playing to Mazzilli, who attempted a backhand strike to stun the visitors in the 43rd minute.
Warriors tried their best to stage a comeback in the final quarter. They even had a Simon Orchard shot hit the post but apart from it, they were subdued by the midfield pair of Man-of-the-Match Hauke and Ockenden, alongwith a strong defending from Jolie.
“It was a crucial win for us. Also, it was important that we finally managed a win in front of our home fans. We are still very much in the race for the semi-finals and if we perform well like we did today in the final two matches, we will be through,” Hauke said after the match.