Raghunath seals third place for Uttar Pradesh Wizards

Ranchi, Feb 11 (IANS) Four goals, including a golden goal from skipper Raghunath right in the last minute of extra time, earned Uttar Pradesh Wizards a 4-3 win over Jaypee Punjab Warriors in an absolute thriller of a third place play-off game of the Hero Hockey India League at Birsa Munda Astroturf Hockey Stadium here Sunday.

Trailing 0-3 at one stage, Wizards came back with Raghunath scoring a hat-trick, all through drag flicks, to force and extra time. Raghunath then scored his fourth from another drag flick to ensure that Wizards got the bronze medal, and earned prize money of Rs.75 lakh.

Jaypee Punjab Warriors completely dominated the first quarter. They showed a lot of intensity and aggression, and were rewarded for it with a couple of goals.

Gurmail Singh entered the Wizards' D, and put the ball on Nithin's leg to earn Warriors their first penalty corner. Mark Knowles took the drag flick, and fired the ball low to the right of diving Bazeley. The ball beat Bazeley for pace and angle and entered the net to give Warriors the lead.

And within less than five minutes, Warriors doubles the lead. Warriors earned their second penalty corner of the game, and once again Knowles took the drag flick. This time Knowles went for an indirect hit, and SV Sunil made a diving connection to beat Bazeley for the second time in the first quarter.

Wizards looked a far better team in the second quarter, coming up with a number of good moves. They entered the Warriors D quite regularly, and it looked like Teun de Noojier pulled one back for them in the last few minutes of the second quarter. Warriors opted for a referral, and replays showed that the ball had hit Somanna's foot before he passed it to De Noojier, and hence, the goal did not stand.

Soon Warriors earned their third penalty corner, and were unlucky not to score their third goal, as the ball hit the wood work. Wizards got their first penalty corner of the day just before the half time, but were unable to trouble Warriors goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann as the drag flick was wayward.

Warriors made it 3-0 early into the third quarter, with a goal from Ranjit Singh. Jamie Dwyer had a chance to take a shot at the goal, but spotted Ranjit who was free. Ranjit got the ball right in front of the goal, and as he was falling down, managed to push the ball inside the goal from the back of his stick after a goalmouth scramble.

Wizards went for a referral, but the TV umpire upheld on-field umpire's decision. Wizards finally opened their account a couple of minutes later, through a penalty corner. One Wizards player played the dummy, and Raghunath struck a fierce drag flick in the left corner, giving a diving Stockmann no chance.

Wizards had a great opportunity to as they earned back to back penalty corners in the first 10 minutes of the final quarter. Hammond did great defensive work on the first, while Stockmann did well to deny Wizards off the second. Wizards came at the Warriors once again to earn another penalty corner couple of minutes later. And this time Raghunath fired an absolute bullet to the top left corner, giving Stockmann no chance to even move.

And Raghunath completed his hat-trick just a minute later with another bullet of a drag flick to complete a fabulous comeback for Wizards, with the scoreboard reading 3-3.

There were no clear opportunities in extra time for either side, except for Simon Orchard's on target hit being saved by Bazeley. It all changed in the last minute, when Wizards earned a penalty corner, and Raghunath fired another powerful hit to score his fourth goal of the evening, and complete a fairy-tale story for Wizards.

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