Mumbai, Jan 23: Hosts Dabang Mumbai and last year's runners-up Punjab Warriors played out an exciting 3-3 draw in their opening game of the Hockey India League (HIL) at the Mahindra Stadium here today.
Mumbai went ahead twice only for Punjab to pull it back on both occasions and then the visitors took the lead through the first of two goals by India discard Sandeep Singh to raise visions of a Punjab come-from-behind win.
But the home team had other ideas as they scored in the final minute through their international Chinglensana Singh, his second goal of the game, to earn the draw.
The first goal was scored in the first quarter by Mumbai's junior India international Harmanpreet Singh (7th minute) via a penalty corner which was equalized in the third quarter by Australia's Jamie Dwyer (32nd minute) Mumbai soaked up some early pressure from the Warriors in the opening quarter before starting to assert.
With the half line providing excellent passes, Australian Glenn Turner and Belgian Tom Boon - along with Dutchman Floris Evers - spelt constant danger to the Punjab citadel. The first goal of the match was scored in the eighth minute by junior India international Harmanpreet Singh when Mumbai earned the first of three short corners in the first 15-minute period.
The award came following an obstruction by Malak Singh who tripped ex-India player Arjun Halappa just inside the 25 yard line on the right and Harmanpreet's drag-flick beat Dutch great Jaap Stockman under the Punjab bar hands down.
Turner, part of the World Cup winning Australia squad in 2010 and 2014, almost made it 2-0 with three minutes left in the opening quarter. But his first-time deflection off a diagonal through from the left by junior international Santa Singh sailed inches wide of the right post.
Mumbai earned two short corners in succession close to the end of the quarter but both went waste. Punjab came into their own early in the second quarter and came close to scoring twice. On the first occasion, Yousuf Affan's deflection from the left went wide of the far post and then Mumbai's Irish custodian David Harte foiled international S V Sunil's goalmouth deflection in the nick of time.
Towards the end of the second quarter, Stockmann brought off a brilliant save to foil Boon's stiff close ranger off a pass from Turner on the right. Crossing over, Punjab found the equaliser in the 33rd minute of the game when Jamie Dwyer took advantage of a weak clearance on the left and beat Mumbai goalie Harte with a rising shot to the far post.
Punjab, by then, were combining better than in the first two quarters but then were lucky to see Vinaya's angular push from the right of the circle go agonizingly past the far post.
Punjab then held sway with repeated forays into the Mumbai area but it was the home team that took the lead again against the run of play through India international Chinglensana Singh whose top of circle shot brooked no stopping.
Punjab, then, continued attacking Mumbai in right earnest. They earned the first of their two penalty corners very late in the match, failed off the first when Sandeep Singh's drag flick was blocked by Harte with his outstretched left leg.
However, off the second - taken by Australian Christopher Ciriello - Punjab were awarded a penalty stroke as Mumbai captain Vikram Pillay stopped the flick with his foot. Sandeep made amends by coming off the bench to find the mark to the right of Harte to make it 2-2 four minutes before the final hooter.
It was Sandeep again who raised visions of a win for Punjab when he beat Harte under the Mumbai bar with his penalty corner shot to sound the board in the 59th minute.
With just a minute left, Harmanpreet Singh provided a superb long-range diagonal from just inside the half line on the right into the rival 'D' which was connected with a first-time shot by Chinglensana to the roof of the net, giving no chance to Stockmann.