Kalinga Lancers hosted Uttar Pradesh WIzards, in what was an incredible match, in the opening game of the Hockey India League (HIL) at the Bhubaneswar. The Wizards were losing the game 4-6 in the 14th minute of the fourth quarter, but two goals from the visitors in the final minute of the game gave them a 8-6 victory.
The home team tested PR Sreejesh at the Uttar Pradesh Wizards goal as early as the third minute with the Indian international reacting quickly to keep out a deflection off Malak Singh's stick. Young forward SK Uthappa kept troubling the Wizards' defence down the right wing, and Kalinga Lancers were making full use of the width of the pitch.
However, despite their domination in the opening moments, it was Uttar Pradesh Warriors who took the lead against the run of play. The visitors scored from almost their first attack of the match, and it arrived from a fast and precise counter-attack.
Agustin Mazzilli drilled in a brilliant pass from the left wing to pick out Jolie Wouter in the box. The Dutch defender, who does not have a great record of scoring, received the ball, before turning around and drilling it into the top corner of the net. It was a field goal, which meant that the away side took a 2-0 lead based on the new rules of the tournament.
Kalinga Lancers won a penalty corner just a minute after conceding that goal, as we witnessed the first use of referral in this year's tournament, but PR Sreejesh did well to keep it out. The Lancers were eager to equalize before the end of the first quarter, and pushed UP back into their own half.
The Wizards had a good chance to double their lead in the 13th when the Lancers gave the ball away cheaply in a dangerous position. However, they did not have to wait long for their second goal of the game. A minute later, Raghunath picked out Kenny Bain with a long pass, and the Scottish forward managed to slide it into the goal, from a very tight angle, to give his side a 4-0 lead.
Kalinga Lancers managed to pull two back just before the end of first quarter with Pardeep Mor opening his account. Glenn Turner made a driving run from the midfield and picked out Mor on the right wing. The defender picked out Malak inside the box, but his shot was saved Sreejesh. The rebound fell kindly for Mor though, who lifted the ball into the far corner of the goal.
In the second quarter, both the teams looked equally matched. Raghunath, who can have shaky moments at the back, looked solid defensively and handled Turner effectively. At the other end, Australian defender Aran Zalewski was having a good game for the Lancers. With field goals receiving higher precedence, teams were driving in the ball from outside the box to look for deflections.
Raghunath also joined the attack, in the second quarter, down the right wing. In one such move, he picked out Vikash Pillay on the right wing, and the midfielder showed a great piece of skill to win a penalty corner for his team. Argentine Gonzalo Peillat drilled in a powerful shot from the penalty corner, but it was blocked on the line by the Kalinga defence.
Kalinga Lancers dominated the last five minutes of the second quarter and eventually, they got the equalizing goal, two minutes from halftime. Gurjinder Singh hit a long drive from outside the box, and Turner was at hand to deflect it into the net to take the score to 4-4.
Kaling Lancers preserved the momentum they gained at the end of the first half, and kept pushing for their third goal. In the 6th minute, Sreejesh made to brilliant back-to-back saves, but rebound feel kindly for Turner, who turned it into an empty net, and Kalinga were in the lead for the very first time in the game.
Lalit Kumar Upadhyay won a penalty corner in the 8th minute and Moritz Fuerste converted with a thunderous drive, to give Kalinga, what seemed like, a 7-4 lead. However, the Warriors referred it to the TV official and the replay showed that the ball was trapped on the line of the shooting circle, and the goal was disallowed.
Meanwhile, Sreejesh pulled out another brilliant save, this time off Aran Zalewski, to keep the Wizards in the game.
With the fourth quarter in play, the Wizards pushed forward for the equalizer, but were denied from three penalty corners, as Caspers produced some breathtaking saves in the Kalinga goal. In fact, it seemed like the writing was on the wall when VR Raghunath missed a penalty stroke in the 12th minute. But as the cliché goes – it ain't over until the fat lady sings.
The away team pulled out a miraculous comeback in the dying moments of the game. Eddie Ockenden scored the equalizing goal for the Wizards from a rebound, after Kalinga goalkeeper Quirijn Charter managed to block Akashdeep's attempted pass to put Ramandeep Singh through on goal. Just seconds after that, Akashdeep turned in a brilliant cross from the right wing to score a winner with what was the final action of the game.