HIL: Punjab thrash Mumbai to jump to the top of table

Jaypee Punjab Warriors stopped Dabang Mumbai's resurgent run by inflicting a 5-1 defeat on the home team and climbed up to the top of the table in the Hockey India League on in Mumbai Friday.

PW's Nitin Thimmaiah celebrates a goal. Pic/Atul Kamble
PW's Nitin Thimmaiah celebrates a goal. Pic/Atul Kamble

Punjab, who were up 3-0 after the first two quarters, scored the goals via successful penalty corner attempts by Varun Kumar (2nd minute), Mark Gleghorne (13th) and Christopher Ciriello (25th). Later Nithin Thimmiah added a field goal in the 40th minute to virtually settle the issue as it counted as two to give the visitors a massive 5-0 lead.

A consolation goal came Mumbai's way through a last-gasp penalty corner effort, when Jeremy Hayward found the mark. Punjab, who went into the game after a defeat against Uttar Pradesh Wizards, put up a dominating show right through the 60-minute match and never let Mumbai, who had reignited their campaign with three successive wins having suffering four straight losses earlier, settle down.

The victory took Barry Dancer-coached Punjab level on points (27) with Ranchi Rays who they will play against tomorrow at the latter's home venue. Mumbai, who have games in hand against Ranchi Rays (February 14 in Ranchi) and UP Wizards (February 16 at home) remained at the bottom of the table with 19 points.

The lack of an effective penalty corner variation cost Mumbai in the very first minute of the game when they earned the set-piece award but captain, Matthew Swann, did not stop the ball properly and it went waste. They got two more at the fag-end of the match, and succeeded off the last, taken after the final hooter had sounded.

Punjab, on the other hand, succeeded with their first two penalty-corner awards through different takers to take a stranglehold on the game at the MHAL Mahindra Stadium. They hit back immediately after conceding the first short corner by earning an award for themselves and Varun Kumar beat David Harte under the Mumbai bar, with a high shot to the custodian's right.

Encouraged by the early 2nd minute lead, Punjab attacked with vigour with India skipper Sardar Singh orchestrating the moves superbly from the typical centre half position and also running forward to give extra support to the front liners. After Johan Bjorkman's close range effort was saved well by Punjab custodian Tristan Clemons, it was the visitors who went on the offensive to earn their second penalty corner and converted it too.

This time it was Mark Gleghorne who took advantage of a good push by Mark Knwles to beat Harte with a low flick to his left, again beating the goalkeeper all ends up.
The first quarter ended with Punjab up 2-0. Mumbai made an early foray in the second quarter but Gurmail Singh's attempt was foiled.

Punjab earned two penalty corners in succession, close to the end of the quarter and scored off the second, their fourth overall. Their main penalty corner striker Christopher Ciriello took the shot and beat Harte to left side to help the visitors break for half time with a handy 3-0 lead.

Punjab continued to dominate and it was not a big surprise when they scored again, this time with a good field effort which counts as two in the tournament, when the tall Nithin Thimmiah took advantage of a centre right across the goalmouth from the left and shoot home.

The teams adjourned after the third quarter with Punjab leading by 5-0. The last goal of the match, by Mumbai, came at the very end as a consolation. But the home team, which had gained a point from each of the first four defeats by not losing by more than two goals, failed to get one from its fifth defeat.

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