Delhi Waveriders enter second straight HIL final

Delhi Waveriders enter second straight HIL final

The Delhi Waveriders scraped past Uttar Pradesh Wizards 1-0 here Saturday to enter the Hockey India League (HIL) final for the second year in a row.

A field goal from Yuvraj Walmiki in the 15th minute made the difference in the first semifinal at the packed Morabadi Astroturf Stadium in the Jharkhand capital.

The first two quarters saw both teams missing a penalty corner each and not making the most of the break-ins into the striking circle. Walmiki was the only one who made his chance count by deflecting a pass beyond the goalkeeper.

It was an unusual sight when India's top drag-flickers Rupinder Pal Singh and V.R. Raghunath, playing for different teams, failing to find the back of the goal.

Waveriders' Rupinder, getting his first penalty corner in the 11th minute, aimed his shot towards the right of the goalkeeper, hitting it wide. Minutes later, Rupinder's stroke was blocked by none other than Wizards skipper Raghunath.

The Uttar Pradesh franchise, seeking the much needed equaliser, got their second penalty corner early in the third quarter after Ramandeep Singh found the legs of Rupinder in a collision. It turned to be an off day for Raghunath, whose hit was way off the mark.

The Wizards upped the ante and entered the Delhi's half repeatedly but the equaliser eluded them. Forward S.K. Uthappa missed his opportunity and could not slot it in from an open area.

Wizards got their third penalty corner through a video referral but to no avail. Raghunath hit the top of the post this time and the Waveriders were lucky to hold onto their slender lead.

The usually water-tight defence of the Waveriders was tested to the core in the fourth quarter. The momentum was very much with the Wizards, who attacked and attacked but without success.

The Waveriders could have scored in counter-attacks on two occasions but substitute goalkeeper Srinivas Rao Katharu denied them the cushion. The Wizards put pressure on Waveriders till the end but the latter managed to scrape through.

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