After two heartbreaks against Delhi and Ranchi in the last two finals of the Hockey India League (HIL), Mark Hager guided his team to their first trophy in his first season in charge. Youngster Armaan Qureshi put up a wonderful performance in the big game, as Punjab handed Ranchi a 6-1 defeat.
Punjab Warriors made a binding start to the game and took the lead in the fifth minute. Armaan Qureshi received a pass inside the shooting circle, and turned his marker Pardeep Mor with a delightful first touch. The young Indian forward created space for himself with his lightning space, and before Mor could put in a challenge, Qureshi found the back of the net with reverse flick.
After taking the lead, Punjab sat deep in their own half and allowed Kalinga to dominate most of the possession. But the Kalinga Lancers failed to pose any serious threat in the final third, apart from Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, who looked their most likely source of a goal.
Punjab received a golden chance to extend their lead in the 2nd minute of the second quarter, when they won a penalty corner after a referral. But Varun Kumar dragged his shot wide of the goal.
Punjab looked dangerous on counter-attacks, and in the 22nd minute, they received another penalty corner when Andrew Charter lost his stick while blocking a shot and then attempted to make a tackle without the stick in his hand. However, Varun Kumar missed the target once again.
That miss proved to be costly, as at the other end, Kalinga received a penalty corner of their own and Moritz Fuertz found the bottom corner of the net with a thunderous flick to make it 2-1.
In the 28th minute, Punjab keeper Tristan Clemons made a fantastic save to keep out Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, but Kalinga won a penalty corner from the rebound. This time it was Gurjinder Singh who stepped up to take the shot, but his shot was straight at the runner, something which has plagued his penalty corners this season.
Punjab stepped up the pressure in the second half of the match with Gurwinder Singh Chandi in particular putting up a stellar performance. Eventually, the pressure led to another field goal, this time with Matt Gohdes applying the finishing touches in front of the net to make it 4-1 in the 39th minute.
Just a minute later, Punjab put the game to bed with Satbir Singh scoring his first goal of the tournament. The forward started the move when he won the ball off Malak Singh, before playing a one-two with Armaan Qureshi, who picked him out in front of the net with the return pass. At this point, Satbir had the easy task of turning the ball into an unguarded goal, with the goalkeeper drawn to the near post. At the end of the third quarter, the scoreboard read 6-1, and Kalinga required nothing short of a miracle at this point to get back into the game.
The miracle did not arrive though, as Punjab held on to the lead and lifted the Hockey India League crown for the first time in their history – after being the losing side in the last two finals.