Door slams shut on Mumbai

Lack of ideas to create goal-scoring opportunities is something that you least associate with a team coached by Ric Charlesworth. With his tactical acumen, Charlesworth has made Australia into one of the most feared attacking units in the world. Unfortunately, he couldn't replicate same success with the Mumbai Magicians in the Hockey India League. Each time the team ventured forward, they were like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Their inability to score a field goal cost them dear once again as they were knocked out of the tournament after losing 0-1 to Uttar Pradesh Wizards (Luke Doerner 33rd minute) at the Mahindra Stadium here on Tuesday. Considering that this was a must-win match for them, one would have expected Mumbai to turn the screws on fellow-strugglers Uttar Pradesh, but it was not to be.

The hosts began on a positive note, conjuring an attack from the pass back that earned them a penalty corner. Sandeep Singh, who was dropped from the national team yet again by India coach Michael Nobbs, would have loved to make a point here. But his feeble attempt did not trouble the goalkeeper. That was the only piece of attacking play that troubled the Wizards.

Mumbai hardly managed to put their opponents in danger for the remaining 69 minutes. They controlled the possession through the course of the match but were clueless in the attacking third on most occasions. Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, were swift on counters and could have scored two or three goals more had they converted the opportunities, including a penalty stoke which Jeroen Hertzberger missed, that came their way.

That's been Mumbai's story throughout the tournament. In their 11 matches so far, they have scored 20 goals and 16 of them have been from penalty corners. They were the worst-affected team when the Pakistani players were sent back, no doubt. The four players from the neighbouring country formed the crux of their midfield. But those players were replaced with three Australians and a New Zealander. Thus, Charlesworth had seven Australian players in his squad to work with, making coordination that much easier. In Glenn Turner, they have one of the best strikers in the world. However, he did not manage to score even one goal. Faisal Sari, the young Malaysian, impressed with his pace and determination but could not score goals when it mattered. In the end, deficiency in this area cost them dear.

"Clearly that was the case," Charlesworth accepted after the match. "Sixteen goals of the 20 we managed were from corners. Turner and Sari could not score and we ran out of ideas despite dominating possession in most of the matches." Defender Matthew Swann complemented his coach's thoughts. "Our performance in the attacking and defensive third was poor. Hopefully, we'll work on it through the year and come back stronger next January," the young Australian said.

Uttar Pradesh will join Delhi Waveriders, Ranchi Rhinos and Punjab Wizards in the semifinals. The last round of group stage matches will be held on Thursday before the semifinals on Saturday and the final on Sunday.

Delhi beat Punjab

Jalandhar: Punjab Warriors ended the league phase on a disappointing note, losing 2-3 to Delhi Waveriders at their home ground. Warriors, who have already sealed their place in the semi-finals, lost their second home game in two days.

After both teams made one attack each, Delhi Waveriders earned a penalty corner in the seventh minute which Rupinder Pal Singh converted. Waveriders increased the lead to two goals in the 11th minute when Oskar Deecke, smacked a shot to the right of Warriors' goalie into the net.

Warriors managed to pull one back in the last minute of the first quarter, as Dharamveer Singh's cross from the right flank was deflected in by Malak Singh. Five minutes into the second quarter, Lloyd Norris Jones scored to restore Waveriders' two-goal lead. (PTI)

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