New Delhi: Defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors eked out a close 1-0 win over Uttar Pradesh Wizards but still failed to qualify for the semifinals of the fifth edition of the Hockey India League on Monday.
Mink van der Weerden scored th lone goal of the match, successfully converting a penalty corner in the 35th minute of the match.
Needing a win and that too by atleast a three-goal margin to be contention, Punjab Warriors scored through Mink van der Weerden's sixth penalty corner conversion to take the lead but it was not enough to seal their place in the semi-finals.
It was the first in the history of HIL, Punjab Warriors failed to qualify for the last four round.
The win took Punjab Warriors tally to 22 points but UP Wizards and Delhi Waveriders, with 23 points each and still a game in hand, have ensured their places in the semifinals.
Table toppers Dabang Mumbai and Kalinga Lancers are already through to the semi-finals.
UP Wizards (+9 goal difference) and Waveriders (+10 goal difference) also are virtually through to the knockouts as the other team in contention, Ranchi Rays' have a poor goal difference of -5. The 2015 champions have 18 points from nine games and they face Delhi on Tuesday.
The defending Champions started the match with positive intent, finding space in the striking circle and attempting a few daring shots at the post but couldn't quite put the ball past Uttar Pradesh Wizards in-form goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
Ace midfielder Sardar Singh came up with an inspired show in the first quarter when he enthralled the audience with impressive stick work to beat three defenders in the circle and find momentum to strike, but his strike went just wide.
MG Poonacha won a penlty corner for the Punjab Warriors in the sixth minute but a missed trap by Jake Whetton denied them an early lead.
The UP Wizards too missed out on converting a penalty corner in the 13th minute resulting in a stalemate at the end of the first quarter.
Punjab Warriors goalkeeper Tristan Clemons was kept busy throughout the second quarter when UP Wizards' forward line made brave attempts but Clemons, who was awarded his third man-of-the-match this season, was impeccable yet again in front of the goal.
Florent van Aubel, on the other hand, showcased brilliant defensive work when he denied Mink van der Weerden in the 21st minute from Punjab Warriors second penalty corner as the stalemat continued at the end of the first half.
Clemons continued his brilliance in the third quarter too when he padded away a powerfully flick of Argentine Gonzalo Peillat from UP Wizards third penalty corner.
The defending Champions finally struck in the 35th minute through Mink van der Weerden, who successfully converted a penalty corner.
Punjab Warriors' needed to win the match by a margin of three goals to keep them in the hunt for a semifinal spot and they earnestly sought the elusive field goal in the final quarter.
Clemons, meanwhile, made as many as 10 crucial saves to keep the UP Wizards at bay.
UP Wizards defence were up to task to deny the title holders further lead.
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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2017 00:11:38 IST