The opening game of the Coal India Hockey India League 2016 was played on Monday and was no less than an edge-of-the-seat thriller. In a nail-biting encounter where seven goals were scored, the Uttar Pradesh Wizards made a terrific comeback to beat hosts Kalinga Lancers 8-6 (2 points for a goal being scored according to the new scoring system.)
Trailing by 4-6, Eddie Ockenden and Akashdeep Singh scored for the UP Wizards in the last minute and turned the game on its head. The PR Sreejesh-led team would be happy to have started their campaign with a win and to have walked away with five points.
Wouter Jolie and Kenny Bain put UP Wizards into lead, Turner-led Lancers fight back:
The first goal under the new rules was scored by Wouter Jolie of Netherlands in the 9th minute. Five minutes later, Kenneth Bain followed up with a brilliant finish to take the UP Wizards tally to 4. Pradeep Mor scored for the Kalinga Lancers just before the end of the first quarter and reduced the deficit.
In the second quarter, the Kalinga Lancers made a brilliant comeback through Glenn Turner who became the first Scottish player to score in the Hockey India League. A smart deflection from an incoming hit took the ball past PR Sreejesh and the game was now balanced evenly with a score of 4-4. Turner then shot his side into the lead for the first time through another beautiful finish in the 37th minute.
Akashdeep and Ockenden snatch bizzare victory for the UP Wizards
Both the teams went into the last quarter with Kalinga leading 6-4. In what can be regarded as one of the most dramatic 15 minutes of competitive hockey, Gurjinder Singh of Kalinga Lancers fouled Akashdeep Singh inside the circle to hand the visitors a penalty stroke with just 3 minutes left to play. VR Raghunath pushed the ball wide of the goal-post and the Kalinga fans heaved a sigh of relief.
In the final minute of the game, Eddie Ockenden played the ball forward for Akashdeep Singh. The Indian forward tried to push the ball towards an unmarked Ramandeep Singh but was denied by Andrew Charter, the Kalinga keeper. Ockenden charged in and slapped the ball off the rebound into the goal to level the match once again. As the timer stopped, the UP Wizards were on another attacking move and this time Akashdeep fired in a backhand stroke that caught the goalkeeper unawares. The goal put the Kalinga crowd to silence and the UP Wizards came back from nowhere to win the match.