Struggling Mumbai Magicians slumped to their 10th defeat in eleven games when they lost 0-1 to Uttar Pradesh Wizards in a must-win game of the Hockey India League at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium, in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Magicians, kept alive in the tournament by the rule that a loss by a margin of less than two goals would still earn a point, could not be rescued from elimination despite earning another point.
Wizards, thus, took the fourth remaining semifinal spot in the five-team tournament with their fourth win in 11 games for a tally of 27.
The Wizards have one more game in hand against Delhi Waveriders and a win there will push them to third position in the league standings ahead of Punjab Warriors who have ended their round robin engagements with 29 points to their credit.
The Magicians have another game in hand, against Ranchi Rhinos on February 7, but with only 15 points in their kitty, including one they earned today, they are already out of the semi-final running.
In the must-win game, Magicians showed intent only in the opening quarter before fading away against their determined set of rivals.
Wizards even wasted a penalty stroke awarded to them, but emerged on top on the back of a cleverly taken penalty corner goal by veteran Australian Luke Doerner in the second quarter.
In a fast-paced first quarter with lot of midfield play, the Magicians forced a penalty corner in the very first minute but their drag-flick king Sandeep Singh was foiled when a defender deflected his shot for a long corner.
Then came a period when both the teams went on attack and counter-attack with their best chance to score coming late in the first quarter.
A superb Magicians move initiated by the ebullient Satbir and Chinglensana Singh down the left side saw the return pass from the latter hit his teammate on the knee as he was waiting to deflect the ball in.
At the other end the tall Nitin Thimmaiah, who showed a good pair of heels to his rivals, took charge of a stray ball and honed in towards the rival goal but while trying to go round P R Sreejesh under the Magicians bar faltered.
The Wizards earned their first penalty corner very early in the second quarter. Sreejesh saved a good try from rival captain V Raghunath with his foot and then cleared it for a corner with his stick.
The Magicians' Suresh Toppo twice broke into the 'D' with his fast approach from the left before losing possession of the ball.
At the other end, the Wizards forced their second short corner and took the lead through a clever variation when Raghunath sold a dummy and passed the ball to the left for veteran Australian Luke Doerner to sound the board, just before the end of the first half of play.
The sides crossed over with the Wizards up 1-0.
Wizards earned their third penalty corner award early in the second half that led to a penalty stroke when defender Joel Carroll stopped Thimmaiah's goal bound scoop with his body off a penalty corner award.
The woodwork came to the rescue of the Magicians when Wizards' Jeroen Hertzberger's flick from the 'spot' hit the right upright to deny the visitors' their second goal.
Wizards' Harbir Sandhu was also sent off briefly for foul play following a raid by the Magicians, but it made no difference as Magicians continued to flounder deep inside the rival area and the score remained 1-0 in favour of the Wizards at the end of the penultimate quarter.
Magicians tried, but in vain in the final quarter to get the elusive goal and nearly succeeded, but front-liner Glenn Turner missed the far post narrowly from close off a move from the right.
With less than two minutes remaining, the Magicians earned their second short corner award but again Sandeep Singh could not score for the second time in the game.