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Punjab Warriors third time lucky, clinch maiden HIL title

Punajb Warriors with their title (PIC: IANS)

HAVING LOST THE FINAL IN THE LAST TWO SEASONS, the Jaypee Punjab Warriors finally struck gold to become third-time lucky and clinched the Hockey India League (HIL) title in the fourth edition of the six-team tournament at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Ranchi on Sunday.

The Chandigarh-based outfit beat Kalinga Lancers 6-1 in the summit clash where Armaan Qureshi, Matt Gohdes and Satbir Singh scored a field goal each for the Warriors. Skipper Moritz Fuerste scored the Lancers' lone goal of the match, coming in a penalty corner. The unique feature of the tournament was that each field goal counted for two.

The Warriors were on the gas right at the start as their forward Armaan Qureshi gave the Punjab team exactly what they needed by scoring a goal as early as in the fourth minute. Qureshi got past two defenders and at the right moment reverse flicked the ball past Lancers' goalkeeper Andrew Charter, becoming the Warriors' top goal-scorer of the tournament with four.

The Warriors were clearly the dominant team in the first half of the match, keeping possession and regularly playing in the Lancers' half of the pitch. Australian Charter was a busy man in the evening as he had to make multiple saves to keep his team in with a chance.

Lancers' skipper and two-time Olympic champion Fuerste of Germany showed his class in the 24th minute when he managed to put the ball past Warriors goalie Clemons Tristan to make it 1-2 for the Lancers, who qualified for the knockouts for the first time in the HIL.

After the mid-way break, the Warriors came out even more aggressively, continuously pressing the Lancers' defence deeper into the scoring arc. The efforts finally bore fruit in the 39th minute when forward S.V. Sunil worked out a brilliant ball and passed it to Australia's Gohdes, who had no difficulty in converting it into a goal.

The score went up to 4-1 in favour of the Warriors thanks to some brilliant work from Sunil and a nice finishing touch from 2014 World Cup-winner Gohdes.

The Warriors did not have to wait long enough as three minutes later Satbir built a fantastic ball, moving past the Lancers' defenders with quick pace to finally score the last of the match to make it 6-1 in the 42nd minute.

By now the game was beyond the reach of the Bhubaneswar-based team, who seemingly appeared jaded in the last quarter of the match. Just moments later, the hooter blew loudly in the stadium to give the Warriors their first trophy in the four-year history of the tournament.

Earlier in the day, 2014 edition winners Delhi Waveriders defeated last year's champions Ranchi Rays 2-0 in the third place match. Mandeep Singh's lone field goal was enough for the Delhi-based team to seal third position in the tournament. The Waveriders had lost the semi-final 1-3 to Jaypee Punjab Warriors here on Saturday.

Waveriders' defender and penalty corner expert Rupinder Pal Singh was named the player of the tournament.

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