Uttar Pradesh Wizards and Jaypee Punjab Warriors finished 2-2 to register the first draw of the second edition of Hero Hockey India League (HHIL) at the Dhyan Chand Stadium in Lucknow.
It was a free-flowing contest between two evenly-matched teams. The game was a treat for the fans as both the sides produced some thrilling end-to-end hockey.
Even though the UP Wizards had the better share of ball possession, there was very little to differentiate between the two sides.
The goalkeepers of both UP Wizards (George Bazeley) and Jaypee Punjab Warriors (Jaap Sotckmann) had a busy day in office as the two teams played attacking hockey throughout the entire 70 minutes.
The Wizards started on an aggressive note and earned a penalty corner early but skipper V R Raghunath flicked the ball straight to Jaypee Punjab Warriors goalkeeper Stockmann. But it was Jaypee Punjab Warriors who took the lead as early as in the sixth minute through Jake Whetton's field goal after he was set up by S V Sunil.
Jaypee Punjab Warriors' joy, however, was shortlived as the Wizards drew level six minutes later. David Alegre (12th minute) equalized for the visitors from a rebound after Stockmann denied Luke Doerner from a penalty corner.
Both the teams got two more scoring chances in the opening half in the form of penalty corners but failed to convert the opportunities.
Tied at 1-1, Jaypee Punjab Warriors had the first shot at goal after halftime, again in the form of a penalty corner, but their star dragflicker Sandeep Singh was not upto the mark.
The Warriors surged ahead once again when Satbir Singh (50th minute) scored with a forehand shot in the third quarter after he was set up by Simon Orchard and Whetton's fine work from the right flank.
But the Wizards did not give up hope and pressed hard in search of the equalizer and managed to draw level four minutes later through S K Uthappa (54th), who slapped home from close range Alegre's pass.
The draw gave both Jaypee Punjab Warriors and Wizards two points apiece from the match. Jaypee Punjab Warriors have consolidated their position at the top of the standings with 18 points from five games.
By virtue of the draw, the UP Wizards have moved up the table, garnering 13 points from four matches.
The UP Wizards will next play Delhi Waveriders at New Delhi on February 5, while Jaypee Punjab Warriors will take on Dabur Mumbai Magicians in Mumbai after five day's rest on February 8.
Speaking on the performance, Uttar Pradesh Wizards coach Roelant Oltmans, said: "A better show today. Last match we were lacking in few areas but we prepared well and performed well today. We have to improve on our conversion rate and grab the chances we get and convert them.
"Need to make winning a habit and try improving the level of our game. We see this match a base to start improving and we have to grow from here."
Team Manager of Punjab Warriors, Jagbir Singh, said: "Our team is known for our attack and we have been successful in this till now in the League. In today's match we missed a few opportunities and will like to highlight our goalkeeping today was very good and met expectations. We are looking at our next match against Dabut Mumbai Magicians."
Photograph courtesy: Hockey India League on Facebook