Nikkin Thimmaiah pulled back Dabang Mumbai from the brink of defeat, securing a 3-3 draw against Ranchi Rays in the Coal India Hockey India League 2017 opener. The Indian striker applied the finishing touch to a deliberate indirect penalty-corner conversion in the 59th minute, worth two goals in the event. The home team trailed 1-3 till that point at the Mahindra stadium.
Christopher Ruhr was the game’s standout performer for the visitors, justifying the attention on him as the costiliest foreigner in the league at $ 75,000. He floated all over the rival half, set up a field goal for Ranchi with a stinging carpet drive to Simranjeet. The latter responded with a neat trap and reverse hit. The German later converted a stroke. Three out of four goals came in the third quarter.
Eventually, the rule awarding two goals for a field attempt, aimed at entertaining fans and giving opportunity to players in front of the goalmouth to showcase their skills determined the outcome. Two video referrals were taken in the last minute. Mumbai's decision to question the umpire decision proved right, resulting in the fifth penalty corner and equaliser off a pass from Harmanpreet Singh.
Ruhr was kept under constant watch by the home team in the first quarter, taking turns to mark him. Ranchi went for the direct route in the first penalty corner, Mitton’s drag was blocked by the Mumbai custodian. Tryon shuttled between marking and distribution duties smoothly on the right. Manpreet got a yellow for a reckless tackle as the score remained goalless at half-time.
Ruhr turned creator on the right, spotting teammate Simranjit who was lurking near the centre just beyond the D. The latter trapped a powerful hit first-time and sounded the boards with a reverse hit. Harte under the bar was beaten by the time he dived to block. Mumbai replied with a drag flick conversion by Harmanpreet Singh eight minutes later.
Ranchi’s second goal came via a penalty stroke. Mumbai defender failed to get his foot out of the way from a Sumit deflection. Ruhr stepped forward and beat Harte from the penalty spot with a firm push to the left post. Mumbai forced two penalty corners in the action-packed third quarter,but did not make any headway.
Both sides played the five-players quota of foreigners. Ranchi opted for Ruhr, Middleton, Taylor, Jackson and Kavagh. Mumbai chose to go in with Fuchs, Harte, Kemperman, Stockbroexx and Hayward. Indian junior internationals getting a look-in from start were Manpreet, Simranjeet (Ranchi), Harmanpreet, Gurjant (Mumbai).
Scores: Dabang Mumbai 3 (Harmanpreet Singh 37 PC, Nikkin Thimmaiah 60 FG-2) drew with Ranchi Rays 3 (Simranjeet Singh 31 FG-, Christopher Ruhr 38 PS).
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