Ranchi edges Punjab in nine-goal thriller

Sandeep Singh made his brief appearance count as he converted a penalty corner to help host Ranchi Rays (RR) emerge better by the odd goal in nine (5-4) against a formidable Jaypee Punjab Warriors (JPW) in a keenly-contested HIL fixture here at the Morabadi Astroturf Stadium on Saturday.

Ranchi Rays players celebrate a goal against Jaypee Punjab Warriors at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi on Saturday.   -  PTI

Sandeep Singh made his brief appearance count as he converted a penalty corner to help host Ranchi Rays (RR) emerge better by the odd goal in nine (5-4) against a formidable Jaypee Punjab Warriors (JPW) in a keenly-contested HIL fixture here at the Morabadi Astroturf Stadium on Saturday.

Sandeep, the former India captain who made a move to Ranchi Rays from JPW this season, came in for captain Ashley Jackson as the host earned back-to-back penalty corners in the third quarter of the action. Sandeep, who has not been tried much by Rays so far in the tournament, proved a point with an acrobatic finish. His first effort was saved by the Punjab Warriors’ Australian goalkeeper Tristan Clemons but Sandeep changed the direction of his next drag-flick to catch the visiting defence off guard.

Good start

The Punjab Warriors made a good start and put the host under pressure with incisive moves down the flanks. Armaan Qureshi made the most of JPW’s initial dominance and found the goal in the seventh minute. Showing good skills the young India international foxed a host of Rays’ defenders and dribbled clear of the opposition goalkeeper Tyler Lovell before finishing with a fine half-volley.

The second quarter had the Rays showing greater resolve and appeared more organised in midfield that checked the free run of the opponents. Amir Khan had the first opportunity of levelling scores but his attempt was not sharp enough to beat Clemons. Kothajit Singh, the versatile defender, made a fine overlap in the next minute and his sharp drive from the left flank went home hitting the stick of Australian midfielder Mark Gleghorne to bring up a packed stadium on its feet. Working on the new-found enthusiasm, the host doubled the lead in the 28th minute when a fine combination between the Australians Timothy Deavin and Daniel Beale saw the latter finding the target (4-2).

Upped the ante

Not willing to be let down the visitor doubled the aggression after the change of ends and found the equaliser in the first minute of the third quarter. Satbir Singh sent home a rebound after the Rays’ custodian Lovell failed to clear a powerful cross from Simon Orchard. With the scores level (4-4), both sides went for the winner. Sandeep brought years of international experience to good use converting the second penalty corner in the 43rd minute as RR coach Harendra Singh introduced the stout defender late in the match.

Missed opportunities

Despite their good on-field show, the inability to convert even one of six penalty corners that JPW earned cost the visitor dearly in the end. The host had the last laugh converting one of the two PCs coming its way. Winning all their three home matches, Ranchi Rays won four successive matches to tally 21 points from five matches and consolidate their position on top of the standings. JPW had 12 points from their five outings.

The result: Ranchi Rays 5 (Kothajit Singh 18-fg, Daniel Beale – 28-fg, Sandeep Singh 43-pc) bt Jaypee Punjab Warriors 4 (Armaan Qureshi 7-fg, Satbir Singh 31-fg).