Mumbai coach Stacy hopes to reach HIL semis

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New Delhi, Feb 9 (IANS) Dabang Mumbai head coach Jay Stacy hoped that their three-match winning streak will take them through to the semi-finals after his side registered a stunning 8-3 victory over Delhi Waveriders in the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) at the Shivaji Hockey Stadium here on Tuesday.

Mumbai suffered losses in their first four matches but have now won three matches on the trot to keep their semi-finals hopes alive.

With their third straight win here, Australian legend Stacy-coached Mumbai jumped to the fourth spot with 19 points from seven matches, pushing down Uttar Pradesh Wizards (18 points from seven matches) and Delhi Waveriders (17 points from eight matches) to the fifth and sixth spots respectively.

Ranchi Rays (27 points from seven matches), Kalinga Lancers (23 points from eight matches) and Jaypee Punjab Warriors (22 from seven games) currently occupy the first three slots.

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“We are gaining right momentum at this point of time. Earlier we suffered losses and those were close ones. We let some sides off the hook. The good performances in those losses were not reflected in the points table and now we are doing well,” Stacy said at the post-match press conference.

“We are now fourth and very much in the race. We were never out of the race – I never allowed that feeling to creep into the side. Hopefully, we continue to perform like this in the remaining matches and make the entry into the semi-finals.”

The Australian coach hailed the character of his men as they scored four field goals in the final quarter to come back from 0-3 deficit.

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After Delhi took a 3-0 lead thanks to Steven Edwards’ (22nd minute) field goal — counted as two in this edition of the HIL — and Rupinder Pal Singh’s ninth set-piece goal of the campaign in the 39th minute, Mumbai turned it around through Danish Mujtaba (49th), Nilakanta Sharma (52nd) and a brace from unheralded Manpreet (57th and 58th).

“We didn’t play the way as would have liked in the first few quarters even though e created good chances. But, we hang in there and made the most of the opportunities that came our way in the final quarter,” said Stacy, who played for Australia in more than 300 matches.

To boost their semi-final chances, Mumbai travel back to host Punjab, while Delhi entertain table-toppers Ranchi on Thursday.

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Meanwhile, Delhi coach Cedric D’Souza blamed “shoddy” man-to-man marking for conceding four times in the final 15 minutes of play.

He also felt that they didn’t press high enough, enabling free space for Mumbai to operate.

“Our marking was shoddy and there was some problem with the organization of the defence. Otherwise we were very good in the first half,” said D’Souza.

“(After the 3-0 lead) we were not complacent but maybe we didn’t press high enough and gave away free space for Mumbai to attack. The credit goes to Mumbai for maximizing those chances in the final quarter.”

However, D’Souza, who coached Waveriders to title in 2014, still feels that his side is still in hunt for the semi-finals.

He also termed this edition of HIL as the toughest.

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