February 27, 2017 1:10:31 am
Kalinga Lancers’ march into the final of the Hockey India League had largely been guided by their foreign stars – captain Moritz Fuerste and Glenn Turner. The German and the Australian had scored 10 goals each out of the team’s 36. And the duo proved yet again that the top players raise their game to another level on big occasions. When the Lancers met table-toppers in Dabang Mumbai in the championship match on Sunday, the two starred yet again to fashion a 4-1 victory as the team based in Bhubaneswar went one better than their final position last year. Turner scored a field goal, worth two in the Hockey India League, with a Fuerste assist, while the German slammed home two drag-flicks to claim the trophy.
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Dabang Mumbai failed to take advantage of the several goal-scoring opportunities they created. Jason Stacy’s team made 19 circle entries as compared to six by the Lancers. Mumbai’s domination in the first quarter saw recent Junior World Cup winner Gurjant Singh and Affan Yousuf pairing up to create some good chances, but Lancers’ goalkeeper Andrew Charter, who had made 52 saves till the final, was in top form yet again. He made two saves in the period to keep the opposition at bay.
Lancers, coached by Mark Hager, made Mumbai pay when Turner was at the right place at the time to beat impressive Irish custodian David Harte.
Fuerste showed great vision with his slap pass into a dangerous area. Kalinga forward Lalit Upadhyay failed to trap the ball cleanly, but as Harte had come off his line, Turner did well to dive and poke the ball between the custodian’s legs to put his team 2-0 ahead in the 18th minute.
While captain Florian Fuchs and Robert Kempermann earned Dabang their first penalty corner, the fact that Mumbai had only a 21.62 conversion rate this season seemed to play on Harmanpreet Singh’s mind as his low shot was stopped by Charter. While subsequent Mumbai attacks were thwarted by the agile Kalinga defence, Fuerste gave another example of his class just before half time.
Aran Zalewski’s precise move earned Lancers their first penalty corner of the match, and their German captain, who had previously tasted HIL success with the erstwhile Ranchi Rhinos, found the target with a high drag-flick for his 11th goal of the season as Lancers went into half-time 3-0 ahead.
It was a bitter blow for Mumbai, still ahead with eight circle entries and three shots on target, but behind on the only statistic that mattered.
Stacy’s men had no option but to stay on the front foot in the third quarter. By the end of the that period, Dabang Mumbai’s number of circle entries had swelled to 13 as compared to Lancers’ solitary one, but for a change, they had a goal to show for their efforts. They tried a variation on a penalty corner. Instead of taking a direct shot, Harmanpreet passed the ball back to the injector, who found Affan Yousuf in front of goal to reduce the deficit to 1-3 in the 33rd minute.
But Mumbai still needed a field goal to restore parity. Matthew Dawson was alert in the Lancers defence and did well to foil the attempts of Yousuf and Gurjant when they entered the striking circle.
As the match entered its final 15 minutes, the action was mostly centred in and around the Lancers defence. They had conceded 198 circle entries this season and this was evident in the fourth quarter as Dabang Mumbai pressed for the field goal they needed.
Having scored in the last minute in four matches this season, Mumbai’s best chance came with three minutes to go when Kemperman and Fuchs teamed up to create a chance for Kieran Grovers, who tapped home with the goalkeeper Charter out of position. But on referral, the video umpire deemed the initial aerial ball into the circle was lifted dangerously and was going off target.
But the danger was not over for the Lancers. The constant Mumbai pressure resulted in three back-to-back penalty corners. Unsurprisingly, they went for a field goal on each of them.
But they messed the third one and allowed Kalinga to launch a counter-attack and earn a penalty corner.
The stage was now set for Fuerste to settle matters and he made no mistake with a low shot past Harte, scoring his 12th goal to match Turner’s tally in the league.
“We dominated the last two quarters and I still believe in all the probability that it was a goal with three minutes remaining. Things could have been different with the score at 3-3 and we knew that we could have tried for one more goal. But that’s hockey and we missed our chances in the first two quarter also. We had our moments and we will take this performance,” said Mumbai coach Stacy after the match.
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