Hockey India League 2017: Kalinga Lancers beat Dabang Mumbai to lift maiden title
Skipper Moritz Fuerste converted two penalty corners for the Lancers while Glenn Turner struck a field effort for the Odisha outfit in the final.
Chandigarh: They finished second best last season, but Kalinga Lancers meant business this year as they defeated Dabang Mumbai 4-1 in a keenly-contested summit clash to win their maiden Hockey India League title on Sunday. Skipper Moritz Fuerste (30th, 58th) converted two penalty corners for the Lancers while Glenn Turner (18th minute) struck a field effort for the Odisha outfit, which lost the final last year to Jaypee Punjab Warriors.
For first-time finalists, Dabang Mumbai, Affan Yousuf (33rd) scored the lone goal from a penalty corner variation.
Earlier in the day, Agustin Mazzilli scored a late field goal to help Uttar Pradesh Wizards register a come-from-behind 5-4 win over Delhi Waveriders and claim the bronze medal in the fifth edition of the tournament. Trailing 3-4 with three minutes remaining in the game, the Argentine striker found himself at the right place at the right time to clinically finish Florent van Aubel's assist from a tight angle to hand UP Wizards the lead and their first podium finish in the history of the tournament.
In their first final of the HIL, it was Mumbai who were more assertive in the first quarter but they failed to get past an alert Andrew Charter in front of Lancers goal. The Lancers finally broke the deadlock in the 18th minute through the tournament's highest scorer, Glenn Turner, who found himself perfectly positioned to tap home a Fuerste pass from outside the D after it took a deflection off Lalit Upadhayay's stick. A minute later, Mumbai secured a penalty corner but Charter stood like a rock in front of the Lancers goal to deny Harmanpreet Singh.
Mumbai captain Florian Fuchs then came tantalisingly close when he sprinted into the opposition circle, beating a host of defenders but his diagonal shot from the right went inches wide off the target even as a diving Gurjant Singh far away failed to get his stick.
Dabang Mumbai's Affan Yousuf then set it up with a brilliant run for Manpreet Jr but the latter failed to keep his balance and unleashed a weak shot which was easily kept away by in-form Charter.
To add to Dabang Mumbai's woes, Aran Zalewski won a penalty corner for the Lancers just at the stroke of half time and skipper Fuerste made no mistake in sending his flick into the centre of the net past FIH's Goalkeeper of the Year, Harte. The high intensity action continued in the third quarter with Dabang Mumbai showing more purpose. Three minutes into the third quarter, Kieran Govers secured a penalty corner for Mumbai and Affan Yousuf reduced the margin for his side with the help of a fine variation.
A brilliant Charter continued his fine show in front of the Lancers goal by pulling off terrific save to deny Gurjant Singh's fierce reverse hit from top of the circle in the 38th minute.
In the final quarter, Dabang Mumbai went on the offensive in search of goals and penetrated the opposition circle numerous times but they erred in the final finishing. Trailing by two goals, Dabang Mumbai pressed hard and three minutes from final hooter Govers found the target on the second chance after Fuchs' initial shot was saved by Charter but the goal was disallowed for dangerous ball after the Lancers went for video referral.
With time running out, Mumbai made desperate attempts to make a comeback and in the process earned three back-to-back penalty corners. Trailing by two goals, the Mumbai outfit went for indirect tries in search of field goals but they failed to capitalise on the opportunities.
Fuerste drove the final nail in Dabang Mumbai's coffin when he converted his second penalty corner of the day a minute from the hooter.
Harmanpreet Singh won the men's 'Player of the Year' award and Gurjit Kaur was recognised as the best player in the women's section.
After a successful campaign at the Tokyo Olympic Games, the Indian men's core group will begin the new Olympic cycle with an intent to improve upon this performance at Paris 2024.