New Delhi: Delhi Waveriders and Uttar Pradesh Wizards played out a 1-1 draw as they moved towards qualifying for the semi-finals of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) at the Shivaji Stadium here on Sunday.
With a win required to enter the semi-finals for either team, Rupinder Pal Singh's penalty corner conversion put Delhi in front in the 20th minute. Argentine Gonzalo Peillat scored the equaliser as he converted a penalty stroke in the 22nd minute.
The draw didn't damage either of the team. Following the match, both Delhi and UP remained in the third and fourth spots respectively. Delhi now have 23 points from nine games, while UP Wizards have 22 points from eight matches.
The draw kept alive the chances of former champions Ranchi Rays and defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors. While, Ranchi are fifth with 18 points from nine games, Warriors are at the bottom of the table with 17 points from nine matches.
A win for Delhi and UP Wizards would have ended the hopes of Punjab and and Ranchi with both of them have never missed out on the last four berths in the HIL.
It was a home match for UP Wizards, with the Lucknow-based outfit's two matches shifted to the national capital due to the ongoing assembly elections.
With Dabang Mumbai and Kalinga Lancers confirmed their positions in the semi-finals, the match had plenty of significance. Delhi were the brighter of the two at the start. They had earned as many as three penalty corners 20 minutes into the game. Two penalty corners in the first quarter was denied by superb goalkeeping from P.R. Sreejesh.
However, the national captain made a mistake in the 20th minute as a penalty corner flick from Rupinder went between his legs and Delhi were ahead 1-0.
UP Wizards responded strongly to the challenge and earned a penalty corner two minutes later. The ball hit the legs of final defender Surender Kumar at the right post. As Surender was behind goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch, a penalty stroke was awarded and Argentine set-piece powerhouse Peillat was right on the money to pull his side level 1-1.
Peillat later in the second quarter got a chance to make it 2-1 but his flick went wide of the right post, as the match ended 1-1 at the half-time.
After the change of ends, both the teams continued to rely on the counter-attacks and twice Akashdeep Singh tested Vanasch's reflexes and awareness with back-handers. At the other end, Rupinder missed yet another penalty corner in the third quarter.
Both the teams dropped their energy levels and waited for the other to commit mistakes. The opportunities from field play was elusive towards the end as they settled for a draw.