Under the crossbar, goalies raise the bar

Hero one moment, villain the next. It's tough being a goalkeeper. Their saves do get applauded but usually its their misses that get highlighted. With the mask hiding their expressions, they remain the all-important faceless background boys of teams.

However, on a rare evening , when the Mumbai Magicians forward-line finally looked in sync and Sandeep Singh added two more goals to his tally to become the Hockey India League's (HIL) top scorer, the home team's goal keeper PR Sreejesh's efforts stood out. The 24-year-old custodian was the cornerstone of Mumbai's win 4-0 win over UP Wizards at the Mahindra Stadium on Wednesday.

The Magicians needed a solid defensive performance against the Wizards in order to notch up their first win of the HIL. Going into their eighth match, they had conceded 25 goals at an average of four per match, an uncharacteristic statistic for a team coached by Ric Charlesworth.

Sreejesh pulled off half a dozen saves to ensure a clean-sheet for Mumbai, though he was assisted by some poor Wizards finishing. The agile goalkeeper's brilliant diving effort from a penalty corner in the second quarter to deny Luke Doerner brought the crowd on its feet. It wasn't just the saves, Sreejesh also organised the defence well, shouting orders from under the helmet to keep the players on toes. "He made the difference today. It was important for us not to concede goals today and he was very good. He pulled off some really good saves which inspired the team," Charlesworth said after the match.

Semifinal race alive

Mumbai's win has reignited their hopes of qualifying for the semifinals. They are only five points behind fourth-placed Wizards and seven behind Punjab Warriors, whom they face today. Another outright win would further boost their chances. Besides a brace by Sandeep, Jonny Jasrotia (11th minute) and Jason Wilson (45) were the other goal scorers for the Magicians.

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