Ranchi Rhinos steal a victory over Uttar Pradesh Wizards in dying minutes
Ranchi Rhinos handed Uttar Pradesh Wizards their first loss by scoring a hard-fought 3-1 win over the latter in an absorbing game of the Hockey India League at the Birsa Munda Astroturf Stadium on their home turf this evening. The win not only helped the hosts reverse the 2-0 loss they suffered in Lucknow a few days ago but also to zoom past their rivals to second place on the table with 17 points while the visitors were pushed down to third with 15 points.
The match was heading for a 1-1 stalemate but Kiwi striker Nick Wilson stole the thunder for the Rhinos with a stunning reverse hit field goal in the dying minutes to give his side the lead with four minutes left on the clock. Ashley Jackson then slotted a penalty stroke in the dying seconds to seal the victory.
Earlier, skipper Moritz Feurtse had put the Rhinos in front in the second session with an opportunist strike while Luke Doerner had equalized at the end of the third session with a sizzling drag flick.
It was a match of fluctuating fortunes and both sides had their moments of ascendancy as the game swung from end to end. From the number of shots they took and the chances they created, Ranchi should have wrapped up the game much earlier. They could not also turn to their advantage, the six penalty corners they earned through faulty execution.
For the home side, local hero and man of the match Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh had a great outing in the middle of the pitch, making some speedy runs with dollops of skill thrown in for good measure. For the visitors, veteran Teun de Nooijer and youngster Nithin Thimmiah showed occasional flashes of skill and inventiveness but not enough to change the game.
Ranchi started with a bang and created three openings in the first five minutes which they failed to capitalize upon. UP took their time to get their bearings but when they found it, they almost made it count. They forced two penalty corners in the first quarter and V R Raghunath struck the cross bar off the first while his second was brilliantly saved by Francisco Cortes diving to his right. At the other end, George Bazeley had to leave his charge to neutralize a Ranchi attack.
Ranchi dominated the second and third quarters and kept UP out of the game for long periods. The opening goal came out of the blue in the second quarter and in brilliant circumstances when skipper Feurtse’s clever deflection off a hard hit into the D by livewire Lakra from the midfield brooked no stopping from Bazeley, who otherwise was in his element and effected several saves.
Australian defender Doerner drew level for the visitors against the run of play with a sizzling flick full of power and venom at the end of the third session from UP’s fourth penalty corner award. Ranchi lost focus a bit thereafter but two goals at the fag end of the match ensured that they went for dinner with full points in the kitty.