NEW DELHI: FEB 16,
Florian Fuchs did the star turn for Dabang Mumbai yet again. He was in the right place at the right time to score 24 seconds from time for a 3-2 win over Delhi Waveriders here on Wednesday and extend his team’s lead at the top of the Hockey India League (HIL) table to an incredible 33 points.
This was Mumbai’s sixth win in nine games as the team continued its trend of scoring in the dying minutes. Coach Jay Stacy had admitted that the team had lost several close games in the previous season, had learnt its lessons and was converting them to close victories in the fifth edition of the competition. An unmarked Fuchs, who has led from the front for the team both in terms of scoring and setting up teammates, tapped in a one-touch pass from Kieran Govers to end Delhi’s winning streak at home. Delhi is now fifth in the six-team league but with just one point each separating the bottom four sides, it is an open race to the semifinals.
For a large part, however, the contest was evenly matched. Mumbai, having already qualified for the playoffs, had the luxury of experimentation and Stacy made full use of it. The team seemed keen on working on the one area it hasn’t optimised yet — scoring through penalty corners — and the players clearly looked to have been instructed on trying to create PCs instead of going all out to score.
Mumbai earned four but could convert only one. Interestingly Harmanpreet Singh, who has made his mark as a drag-flick expert, did not attempt any as Stacy tried out his other options, Govers and Jeremy Hayward with the former managing to put Mumbai ahead in the 24th minute.
Mumbai was also the more enterprising team, building its attacks gradually from the back and advancing from both flanks together. Delhi was the more desperate and, expectedly, pushed harder upfront.
Mandeep Singh, Talwinder Singh and Parvinder Singh marshalled Delhi’s attacks and the young trio did its best to trouble David Harte.
The Irishman, however, proved why he is rated so highly — he not only saved six penalty corners but also brought off back-to-back saves from Manuel Brunet and Talwinder Singh in the 21st minute. Mandeep put through by Talwinder in the 44th minute, dodged past his marker, turned and slotted in to give Delhi a 2-1 lead.
Just when it looked like Delhi would strengthen its chances of advancing by the slimmest of margins and keep its winning momentum before travelling out, Fuchs proved his class all over again.