It’s raining goals on Wizards’ night
- Delhi Wizards stun title favourites Sher-E-Punjab 7-5, to finish sixth in the league
- Shakeel Abassi (38th, 43rd & 61st mins) scores three goals while Vivek Gupta (29th & 54th mins) with a brace and Victo Singh (13th min), Rajpal Singh (57th min) add one each for the Wizards
- Gagandeep Singh (8th min) and Karmjit Singh (53rd min) score one each while Prabhjot Singh strikes three goals (31st, 67th & 68th mins) for the Shers
- 300th goal of the WSH comes up in 55th match
It was payback time for all those heartbreaks. Though, it looked like a familiar story when Sher-E-Punjab went ahead in the eight minute through Gagandep Singh but the young Victo Singh equalised five minutes later and then Pakistani import Shakeel Abassi went on to grab a sensational three-goal haul in his name, the experienced Vivek Gupta struck a brace and star forward Rajpal Singh bagged one and, the local fans at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium were still chanting “goal, goal”. The match ended 7-5 in favour of the Wizards, who finished sixth in the league after playing all their 14 matches in the Bridgetsone WSH, while title favourites Shers will move on to play the semifinals against Karnataka Lions in Bengaluru on April 1, but this was sweet revenge.
Wizards skipper Shakeel Abbasi ushered his team to realize the mission, scoring three goals including the 300th of the WSH when he converted a stroke which he earned in the 61st minute. He was fittingly declared the ‘man-of-the-match. Wizards scrapped through Shers in the first round with a tight 2-1 score, but today it went all out in churning out seven goals while conceding five. The fluent 7-5 win marked Wizards’ sixth win in 14 matches, fourth at home. The huge Delhi crowd could not have been happier to witness a match that produced a dozen goals, the highest tally in a WSH match. It stands at par with the scoreline of the Strykers-Marines tie played on the Mumbai turf on March 1.
After conceding a soft goal to Gagandeep Singh, it was young gun Victo Singh who opened the floodgates for the Wizards with a close range scoop. Midfielder Vivek Gupta produced the second goal, giving a superb finishing touch to his own solo, his strong forehand from the top of the circle landing home past the hapless goalkeeper Dinesh Ekka.
Shers, despite being slow in moves in this tie, woke up and equalized before changing sides. It was left to the genius of old war horse Prabhjot Singh to do the damage-control within two minutes, as he bounced on to a rebound, and then hit a diagonal that smashed into the net.
The change of sides saw the fortunes change for the Wizards. Abbasi, who came close to scoring in the first half on umpteen occasions but could only create penalty corners, struck a brace in the space of five minutes for a solid 4-2 lead. However, the Shers sent shivers down the spine of the hosts when Karamjit Singh’s solo ended fruitfully in the 53rd minute. But the Wizards retrieved the situation with a counter attack and bounced back quickly. Midfielder Vivek Gupta, who honed his skills on this very ground as an Air India Academy trainee, added another to his booty and was instrumental in setting up the other goals.
Overall, the Wizards had a mixed outing in the inaugural edition of the league, finishing sixth out of eight teams with 19 points, ahead of Bhopal Badshahs and Mumbai Marines. They produced some exhilarating hockey in the last one month and certainly won the hearts of their fans by displaying their best performance in the last match. Young Wizards like Gurwinder Singh, Victo Singh, Upendra Pillay and Manot Antil have been very impressive while established stars like Shakeel Abbassi, Rajpal Singh, Kamaldeep Singh and Philip Sunkel dished our some mesmerising hockey on their day.
SEMIFINALS (APRIL 1, 2012)
Sher-E-Punjab (Rank 2 Team) vs Karnataka Lions (Rank 3 Team) at KSHA Stadium, Bengaluru, 7pm.
Chandigarh Comets (Rank 1 Team) vs Pune Strykers (Rank 4 Team) at MHA Mahindra Stadium, Mumbai, 9 pm; Live on Neo Cricket & Neo Sports