What’s the story?
The Ranchi Rays defeated the Delhi Waveriders 6-2 in their final league game at the Shivaji Stadium but it was not enough as they missed out on a semi-final berth on goal difference.
Needing to win by a margin of eight goals or more, they led 6-0 in the third quarter thanks to a brace from Manpreet Singh and a close-range finish from Imran Khan, but they were pegged back after Justin Reid-Ross scored a field goal for Delhi in the 45th minute.
Ranchi coach, Harendra Singh admitted that this season had been disappointing for side, but he was happy that his troops fought till the end. “We left ourselves too much to do in the final game and had been sluggish in our previous matches. But I’m glad we got the win today. The players showed great character and gave their best efforts,” he said.
Cedric D’Souza, who is the coach of the Delhi side, labelled his team’s performance a comedy of errors. He said, “Our play in the first three-quarters was disappointing and Ranchi made the most of their chances. We tried to stay calm and stick to our game, knowing that we would get opportunities to score as well. We overpowered them in the final 15 minutes and now the focus is completely on the semifinals in Chandigarh.”
Rays skipper and ace drag-flicker, Ashley Jackson, who has been a part of the Ranchi team for five years now, stated that he was disappointed with how this campaign had ended given his side’s enormous potential. “We were brilliant today but it was too little too late,” he said.
He added that he hoped to return to Ranchi and the HIL next year as well and said that it has been a wonderful experience so far.
In case you didn’t know...
After a disappointing set of results that included just two wins in nine matches, Ranchi sat on the bottom of the league table, five points behind Delhi and 15 goals behind on goal difference with the final game left to play. The Delhi Waveriders had to avoid a loss by eight goals or more to progress to the semis and they came quite close to being booted out of the competition.
The heart of the matter
In a frantic first quarter, the Ranchi Rays took an early 9th-minute lead through Manpreet Singh as they opted to go for a field goal from a short corner situation. Barry Middleton put the ball in the back of the net twice in a minute but both times, the goal was disallowed following reviews from the Waveriders.
The Rays earned three penalty corners in the second period, but could not add to their tally.
The game burst into life as two field goals from Manpreet and Imran Khan in the 32nd and 37th minutes respectively brought Ranchi within touching distance of a semi-final berth. However, their ambitions were quickly laid to rest in the final minute of the third quarter as Delhi's Reid-Ross scored with a delightful finish from a deflected long pass.
Despite the 6-2 victory, the Rays' HIL campaign is done and dusted, as they finished in fifth place with three wins, three draws and four losses. On the other hand, the Waveriders will now prepare for the playoff stage, which will take place in Chandigarh on January 25.
The match was one of the best of this HIL edition, featuring some world-class attacking hockey. The feedback from foreign stars throughout the competition has been positive so far and Jackson's statement comes as another indicator of this league's success.