Mumbai, Jan 28 (IANS) Captain Florian Fuchs and Affan Yousuf scored twice each as Mumbai hammered defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors to leap to the top of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium here on Friday.
Fuchs, a $96,000 German import, sounded the board twice (30th and 43rd minutes) after Punjab forward Matt Gohdes (13th minute) cancelled out nikkin Thimmiah’s fifth minute opening goal lead.
Arman Qureshi then scored a field goal to reduce the difference to two in the 44th minute. But Affan Yousuf’s 49th minute deflection and another goal gave the hosts a 10-4 lead and the win in the match where the visitors played their first match of the HIL 2017.
With this win, Mumbai jumped to the top of the table with 12 points from three games, pushing down Kalinga Lancers, who have 10 points, to the second spot. Ranchi Rays are third with eight points from three games, while Uttar Pradesh Wizards are fourth with a point from as many game.
Mumbai caught a very fine start and got the advantage when Belgin midfielder Manuel Stockbroekx made a solo run of around 50 yards and moved to the right of the Punjab circle before crossing at the feet of goalkeeper Tristian Clemons. The ball bounced off Clemons’ feet and Nikkin was ready to slap the ball in to make it 2-0.
Following the goal, Mumbai kept on attacking and Nilankanta Sharma’s drive at the top of the circle was put away by Clemons.
But Punjab surivived the pressure and found their equaliser in the 13th minute when Gohdes stole a ball from a sloppy Harmanpreet Singh with high pressing near the halfway line and surged forward before firing past an diving David Harte with a strong finish.
In the middle of the second quarter, both the teams got a penalty corner each but neither of them were fully utilised. While Mumbai messed up a variation tactic, Punjab’s debutant Mink van der Weerden’s flick couldn’t evade first runner Stockbroekx.
Punjab forward S.V. Sunil floundered at two close-range chances. At the first opportunity, he failed to trap a swift cross at the right post and in the second chance, his drive was wayward.
However, Mumbai regained the lead seconds before the half-time when Mumbai captain Fuchs employed a ripping back-hand strike from the edge of the circle left goalkeeper Clemons stranded.
After the change of ends, both Mumbai and Punjab continued to play fluent hockey and had several chances. For Mumbai, Robbert Kemperman’s cross from the right went scurrying past the left post, while Punjab wasted another penalty corner opportunity.
Fuchs then scored his second of the night when Nikkin’s baseline cross was half-heartedly cleared and it moved to Fuchs, who was stationed at the top of the circle unmarked. The German then delivered a powerful strike that beat Clemons on the left.
Punjab’s response to the goal was just perfect — a counter-attack followed and Qureshi made the most of a mistake from defender Harmanpreet to make it 4-6 with a close-range finish.
But two goals from Affan put an end to Punjab’s challenge. In the 49th minute, Gurjant Singh’s back-hander from the left was successfully deflected in by Affan, who then himself employed a back-hander to send the ball into an open net in the 51st minute.
Afterwards, it was a mount too steep to climb for Punjab and the Barry Dancer-coach outfit simply was not good enough on the night.