Captain V R Raghunath led from the front, scoring four goals including a hat-trick, to help Uttar Pradesh Wizards claim the third spot in the inaugural Hockey India League with a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Jaypee Punjab Warriors, in Ranchi, on Sunday.
Raghunath single-handedly spoiled Punjab's party with sheer individual brilliance as he converted four penalty corners to ensure the win for the Wizards' after they were down 0-3 till the 39th minute.
The Warriors, however, were the better side on display, at least in the opening half, as they controlled the proceedings from the onset.
Mark Knowles (4th minute), S V Sunil (8th) and Ranjit Singh (39th) scored for the Warriors to hand them a commanding lead in the game.
But riding on skipper Raghunath’s (42nd, 62nd, 64th, 85th) precise penalty corner conversions, the Wizards made a strong comeback in the second half to not only level the scoreline but finish on the podium.
However, it was the Warriors who dominated the early exchanges and broke the deadlock just four minutes into the game through Knowles.
The Warriors doubled their lead four minutes later through a diving Sunil who deflected in from a penalty corner. The UP team went for the referral but it went against them.
Ranjit then made the scoreline 3-0 in favour of the Warriors through a field effort.
Raghunath pulled one back for the Wizards in the 42nd minute from a penalty corner.
Trailing 1-3, the Wizards pressed hard for goals thereafter and it took two brilliant corner conversions from skipper Raghunath in a span of three minutes to draw parity and take match into extra time.
In the two extra time periods of seven-and-a-half minutes a piece both the teams did not give an inch to the other and failed to break the deadlock till the final minute.
The Wizards earned an important penalty corner in the final minute of additional time and an accurate Raghunath made no mistake to sign off a memorable day for him as well as his team.
Photograph: Hero Hockey India League