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Delhi go past Punjab

- Pakistan players are kept out of HIL opener

New Delhi: Delhi Waveriders started their Hockey India League (HIL) campaign on a positive note, defeating Punjab Warriors 2-1 at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here on Monday.

Delhi rode on goals from Oskar Deecke and Gurvinder Singh Chandi, while Kieran Govers scored the lone goal for Punjab in the opening match of the inaugural HIL. The match was marred by a pitch intrusion by Hindu Yuwak Sabha supporters.

In the game, Delhi were by far the better side on display, scoring both the goals in the first-half.

Punjab, on the other hand, looked out of sorts in the first-half as Australian Jamie Dwyer, Shivendra Singh and SV Sunil failed to combine upfront.

German Deecke broke the deadlock in the 14th minute when his flick from an acute angle rolled inside the net after getting a deflection from a Delhi defender.

Nine minutes later, Chandi pulled off a stunner as Delhi went into the breather with a 2-0 lead.

Punjab, however, came out with more purpose in the second half and the understanding among their strikers was better. Their efforts bore fruit in the 43rd minute when Govers reduced the margin with a reverse flick from the right after being fed by Sunil.

However, Delhi’s goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi of Germany stood firm to deny Punjab strikers from scoring further goals.

Speaking after the match, Punjab Warriors captain Jamie Dwyer said they were still struggling to find right team combination. "We didn't play with the right team combination today… Our first priority is to get the right team combination for the next match… We expect to show improvement in the future. We have quality players in our squad and will try to do well in the next games," Dwyer said at the post match press conference.

The Australian said they were outplayed in the first half and also blamed poor penalty corner conversion for the defeat. "We were outplayed in the first half. We tried to make a comeback in the second half but failed to eke out a draw. Hopefully, we can perform well in our next game.

“Our penalty corner conversion was also poor as we missed three chances. We played well in patches but still a lot needs to be done,” he said.

Interestingly, both the teams did not field Pakistani players. While the Punjab team kept out Kashif Shah, Delhi did not play Mohammed Rizwan Sr and Jr.

Speaking on the issue, Dwyer said: “He joined the squad late and was short of match practice. He will play the next match depending upon the team combination.”

Delhi coach AK Bansal said the team need to improve a lot despite opening their account with a win.

“It’s just a start for us. We need to improve in many areas. We committed few mistakes and our goalkeeper saved many chances.”

On not fielding the two Pakistani players, Bansal said: “Both players reached this morning at around 8, so we did not play them. It had nothing to do with protest.”

Bansal said they treated this game as a practice match. “You can treat it as a practice match. We will have to look at the combination.” (Agencies)