PUNJAB WARRIORS saw off a strong challenge from Delhi Waveriders to carve out a 3-1 victory in their Hockey India League (HIL) semi-final at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi on Saturday.
Young striker Armaan Qureshi (19th minute) scored a field goal for Punjab while Simon Orchard (51st) converted a penalty corner in the closing stages. Field goals are being counted as two in this edition of the HIL.
Experienced dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh (6th) had given Delhi the early lead from a penalty corner. This was the 12th goal of the tournament for Rupinder.
Both teams started on a cautious note, trying to play on the counter. The first major opportunity fell to Delhi through a penalty corner which was converted by Rupinder.
The second quarter saw the Warriors play an attacking game in an attempt to restore parity. After Qureshi had found the equaliser with a reverse flick, Punjab got an opportunity to extend their lead towards the end of the quarter with S.V. Sunil making two good circle penetrations. But the Delhi defence stood firm.
Punjab kept up the pressure in the third and fourth quarters. They enjoyed the lion's share of ball possession and created scoring chances at regular intervals.
The sustained pressure took its toll when a high ball from across the field was stopped by Matt Gohdes and deflected onto the foot of a Delhi defender to give Punjab a penalty corner. Orchard stepped forward to convert the penalty corner and increase Punjab's lead.
Delhi tried their best to make a comeback, but a strong defence and good goalkeeping from Punjab custodian Tristan Clemons kept them from scoring.
"We played very well as a team and Mark in particular defended very well. If we continue playing this way we are very hopeful of a positive finish tomorrow," Punjab coach Barry Dancer said after the match.