Glittering opening, rusty start

In a moment of pure skill and inspiration, Delhi Waveriders' Gurvinder Singh Chandi, having received a pass from Sardar Singh near the half-line, dodged his marker and made a darting run on the right flank. With the stick in one hand, he deftly guided the ball, leaving Jaypee Punjab Warriors' Ignace Tirkey in his slipstream and making the veteran defender look like a school-level hockey player. As three more yellow jerseys rushed towards him, Chandi hit a diving cross straight to the an unmarked Yuvraj Walmiki at the far post who calmly deflected the ball in. Twenty-three minutes into the game, the home team were 2-0 up.

Unfortunately, there weren't many moments like this, as the Hockey India League (HIL) got off to a start that was glitzy and eventful, but hardly up to mark when it comes to the hockey. Punjab mounted a comeback in the second half and pulled one back, but Delhi hung on to take full points from a game that left much to be desired.

Then again, it was expected. With the teams having hardly gotten any time to group, players from both sides showed poor skill levels as they struggled to trap the ball or make clean passes. Of the two, Punjab were the worse in the first half. Like Tirkey in the aforementioned move, they were completely outclassed right from the very first minute when Delhi's Simon Child found himself one on one with Punjab goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann. The Dutch custodian, widely considered to be the best in the world, lunged forwards and thwarted Child's attempt, and again off the rebound, and again.The big-hearted Jaap, who was later adjudged man of the match, was to make many more saves as Delhi, true to their name, attacked in waves.

The fortress was finally breached in the 14th minute when Deeke Oscar's cross took a big deflection off Punjab mid-fielder Gurinder Singh's stick. And thus came the first breakthrough of an error-strewn match -- fittingly through an own goal. Delhi also squandered three penalty corners, two of them back-to-back at the stroke of half-time, as Rupinder Pal Singh tried left, tried right and aimed at centre but just couldn't find a way past the goalkepeer. Punjab also got a penalty corner off a counterattack, and Gaganpreet sounded the board, only it was the advertisement board as the drag-flick went horribly wide.

... contd.

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