Delhi Waveriders face Punjab Warriors in semi-final
The Sardara Singh-led side had been the most dominant outfit in the tournament, going unbeaten till the final round of the league stage.
Ranchi: Title favourites Delhi Waveriders will have to quickly regroup themselves after their league match defeat and look to book a summit clash berth when they take on Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the second semi-final of the Hockey India League here on Saturday.
The Sardara Singh-led side had been the most dominant outfit in the tournament, going unbeaten till the 12th and final round of the league stage. However, the law of averages finally caught up with the leaders as they were outplayed 1-4 by Uttar Pradesh Wizards at home last night and they have just one day to recover and rejuvenate before the semi-final at the Birsa Munda Astroturf Stadium.
The Delhi players looked jaded in their last encounter and though Sardara played down the loss as an aberration which happened because the team rested most of their star players, he would also know that the loss of momentum at such a crucial stage can be suicidal for the team. They can, however, find solace from the fact that they would be facing a team they had thoroughly dominated in the league stage.
The Warriors are also coming into the semi-final stage without a win in their last three matches but the Jamie Dwyer-led side will be a lot fresher having got a longer rest since their last league game on February 5. During this period, team coach Barry Dancer would have definitely tried to find a solution to the team's goal-scoring woes that have seen them lose matches in which they held better possession and even penetrated the opposition's striking circle regularly.
Dancer clearly knows that facing Waveriders would not be an easy task. "Pressure in semis is quite different from the pressure in league matches. Games change in the semis. And if the opponents are Delhi Waveriders, then it will be a tough match," Dancer said. The Waveriders don't have any such worry and the coaching staff would not want to tweak anything in their formation and tactics just because of one loss. All they have to do is to ensure that the loss of momentum is not carried on the field of play tomorrow.
Coach AK Bansal said that Thursday's defeat would not affect the team morale as his side had rested some key players having already qualified for the semi-final. "We have a good momentum till now and yesterday's match did not affect us. We rested few key players yesterday and gave chance to young players. Though we lost the match, but it did not affect our confidence," said the coach. "We will play aggressively and with attacking style, like previous matches," he said.