Delhi seals a spot in semis, Ranchi bows out with a win

Two-time champion Ranchi Rays bowed out of the competition with a 6-2 win in its final league game against Delhi Waveriders on Tuesday. The result put Ranchi at par with Delhi and UP Wizards on points and in number of wins but was done in by an inferior goal difference.

Delhi Waveriders didn’t have a great outing at home, but even then they made it to the semifinals.   -  Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Two-time champion Ranchi Rays bowed out of the competition with a 6-2 win in its final league game against Delhi Waveriders here on Tuesday. The result put Ranchi at par with Delhi and UP Wizards on points and in number of wins but was done in by an inferior goal difference.

Ranchi had its plans clear even before the game began. The team had to win by a margin of eight goals or more to displace Delhi from the top-four position on the leaderboard, and even though it looked an impossible task, the team played with determination and looked intent on upending the table, coming close in the end but not close enough.

It kept attacking relentlessly and kept the pace of the game high. It attacked from both flanks and through the middle. Ranchi earned six penalty corners but went for a double every time, not attempting a single direct hit at goal. In hindsight, the team would be wondering ‘what if had it taken at least a couple of them directly.’

However, even the field goal attempts became predictable with the ball going to Ashley Jackson—who has had a terrible season—on the left repeatedly and being cleared. Jackson was ineffective on the day as well, struggling to marshal the midfield or get his passes right.

Ranchis other big-ticket foreign recruit, Chirstopher Ruhr, was slightly better but not good enough to make a difference. In fact, it was the disappointing outing by the two big names throughout the season that let Ranchi down. Manpreet Singh, however, more than made up for it. The hard-working youngster ran the yards and was all over the field. He scored two of the three field goals—each of which count as two—and set up Imran Khan and Amir Khan umpteen times.

Along with Gurbaj Singh on the right, Barry Middleton upfront and Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh in the defence, Manpreet was the key to Ranchi's offence. Delhi, on the other hand, appeared more relaxed for a large part, perhaps confident in its huge goal difference advantage. It wasn't until the scoreline became 6-0 that the host seemed rattled and stepped up the attack towards the final minutes of the third quarter and a 10-minute period in the fourth.

Mandeep Singh and Talwinder Singh tried to break past the Ranchi defence but had no support. A Talwinder shot came off the far post and five shots at goal went wide in as many minutes in Q4. Justin Reid-Ross finally managed a lucky touch to a free hit in from Rupinder Pal Singh in the 45th minute. In the end, it was just enough.

The only way for Ranchi to advance now is if UP Wizards loses by 10 goals or more in the final league match of the competition against Dabang Mumbai on Wednesday. That would be a nothing short of a miracle, though.

The result: Ranchi Rays 6 (Manpreet Singh 4 FG, Imran Khan 2 FG) beat Delhi Waveriders 2 (Justin Reid-Ross 2 FG).