HIL: Ranchi Rays register first win of the season

Ranchi Rays changed their style and their fortunes in two quarters to register their first win in the fourth edition of the Hockey India League, defeating hosts Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-2 here on Friday.

The Ranchi Rays (red) defeated the Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-2.

Ranchi Rays changed their style and their fortunes in two quarters to register their first win in the fourth edition of the Hockey India League, defeating hosts Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-2 here on Friday.

The defending champions registered their presence both in penalty corners and field goals in the come-from-behind victory. Despite being more aggressive and creating more chances, Uttar Pradesh Wizards faltered in their first home match of the season, unable to take advantage of the chances that came their way. With the Guru Gobind Singh Sports College ground filled only half but with a vociferous crowd backing the home side, the hosts were far more on the attack, giving the supporters a lot to cheer for.

But UP were unable to make use of a more proficient forward line as compared to the visitors who went from defensive to offensive at the change of ends. Starting cautiously with only the occasional forays into the UP half courtesy Manpreet Singh and Mohammad Amir Khan, Ranchi changed their style in the last two quarters, taking a lot more chances at goal. They were rewarded for it.

Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh combined well upfront and Eddie Ockenden provided the much-needed flourish to the UP attack. Using both flanks to the optimum, the hosts kept pushing high and went ahead early in the fourth minute through Ramandeep. The goal energised the crowd and the hosts who had skipper V. R. Raghunath, Wouter Jolie and Gonzalo Peillat manning the back.

But Ranchi, who perhaps have the best midfield in the competition, remained unflustered and kept clawing back into the game. With Ashley Jackson playing as the fulcrum of the attack and Manpreet moving up and down to shore up the attack, Ranchi played more to a plan. Manpreet put through some great balls but Sarwanjit Singh was unable to convert it.

After the break, Ranchi came out more determined to get on the score-sheet. Two goals in four minutes – a penalty corner struck in on the rebound by Sarvanjit in the 45th and a peach of a goal from an acute angle by Jackson in the 48th – changed the momentum. P. R. Sreejesh brought off some impressive saves, diving left and right to ward off the Ranchi attacks, but there was only so much he could do.

Missed sitters in front of the goal by P. R. Aiyappa and Kenneth Bain also hurt the Wizards’ chances, as did a couple of consecutive penalty corners wasted by Raghunath. While they went on the defensive, Ranchi found their mojo and went for the kill. A last minute penalty corner converted by Jackson ended all hopes for the hosts.

Result

Ranchi Rays 4 (Sarvanjit Singh PC, Ashley Jackson 2 (FG, PC) beat Uttar Pradesh Wizards 2 (Ramandeep Singh FG).