Kalinga Lancers provide HIL scorching start with thrilling win over Ranchi Rays
Dream start for the 3rd season of the Hero Hockey India League
It was an ideal start Hockey India League could have got - pace, commitment and more importantly goals - and it turned out to be a perfect game for the home fans at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubneshwar as the Kalinga Lancers gave a winning start to their campaign. The Lancers defeated the league debutants Ranchi Rays 6-3, overwhelming them with their speed and precision.
On the other hand, the Rays always looked searching for the ball and mostly defending in first three quarters of the game. The home side capitalised on Ranchi’s defensive lapses to clinch a thrilling 6-3 win in front of almost full-capacity crowd. The margin of defeat could have been much bigger, had the Lancers made most of the opportunities that came their way.
The Rays initiated the first attack of the match but against the run of play the Lancers scored the opening goal when Lucas Vila's shot slowly crawled into the goal after flicking up from goalkeeper’s pads as Birender Lakra was slow in clearing the ball.
Ranchi saved a fury of penalty corners few minutes later and managed to keep the lead down to one goal and their resilience paid off soon. Barry Middleton fired one into the net to level the game in the 15th minute.
Lancers extended the lead in the second quarter
The second quarter was all about the hosts and they fired twice inside two minutes. Gonzalo Peillat restored the lead in the 17th minute, while Vickram Kanth made it 3-1 in favour of the home side. Ranchi could have pulled one back but Balwinder missed the chance in the dying moments.
Both teams played neck-and-neck in the third quarter, with men in yellow pulling one back through skipper Ashley Jackson via penalty corner. Ranchi’s joy was short lived as Gurjinder Singh restored Kalinga’s two goal lead by scoring through a penalty corner a minute later.
Jackson-led side made some good moves in the final quarter and they were awarded with penalty corners. Skipper Jackson failed to convert the first but he scored in the second to complete his brace and reduce the margin to just one goal with ten minutes to play.
Once Jackson scored the third for the visiting team, there was a sense of nervousness in the stadium as the MS Dhoni co-owned team was slowly finding the rhythm. The Lancers, meanwhile, sealed the game through two quick goals through Mohammad Amir Khan and Devindar Walmiki.