A late goal from Stanley Minz saw the Ranchi Rays move closer to the top of the Hockey India League with a 3-2 win over the Punjab Warriors at Ranchi. Despite the position on the leadership board remaining unaltered, the Rays and the Warriors are now tied on points with the Warriors ahead only courtesy of a superior goal difference.
Barry Dancer Names Weakened Squad
Top of the table Punjab Warriors named a weakened starting XI in a bid to test their bench strength. While former Indian custodian Bharat Chetri was deployed, we saw Rob Hammond and Sandeep Singh occupying a place on the bench for a change.
Harendra Singh on the other hand went in with perhaps the best possible XI for Ranchi. Influential midfielder Ashley Jackson started in midfield alongside countryman Barry Middleton. Indian star, Mandeep Singh retained his place at the apex of the attack.
Parvinder Singh Puts Ranchi Ahead
With most of the first quarter being played in a stop start fashion, the quarter looked set to conclude in a stalemate. However, with 12 minutes played, a penalty corner awarded to the home side turned the game on its head. Despite Ashley Jackson’s drag-flick being palmed away by the Punjab goal keeper, Parvinder Singh tapped in the rebound from close range to give the Ranchi Rays a one goal lead at the close of the first quarter.
Ranchi Rays dominate second Quarter
The goal was perhaps the shot in the arm the Ranchi Rays’ needed. In the second quarter, they went on to dominate all aspects of the match, without giving the Punjab Warriors an inch. Harendra Singh allowed himself a smile as he witnessed his side outplay the opposition with 69% posession, 7 circle penetrations and 5 shots on target. The cherry on the cake was Parvinder Singh’s instinctive goal.
The first half therefore concluded with the Ranchi Rays ahead of the Punjab Warriors with a goal to the good.
Ashley Jackson Doubles The Lead
Clearly rejuvenated in the half time break, the Punjab Warriors came off the blocks with Rob Hammond and Gurmail Singh attacking on both flanks. Sandeep Singh too made his comeback in defence alongside Varun Kumar. However, with Punjab attacking with all their might, the game became increasingly stretched. The counter attacking prowess of Ranchi was there for all to see as Mandeep Singh and Nick Wilson squandered prime opportunities to get their names on the score sheet.
With 42 minutes gone, Ranchi Rays found themselves with another penalty corner and a good opportunity to double the lead. This time, there would be no mistake as Ashley Jackson tucked away his eighth goal of the tournament to give his side a two goal cushion.
Alejandro Mazzilli Leads Punjab Fightback
The fourth quarter kicked off with an animated Barry Dancer and a wide smile from Harendra Singh. His smile was short lived as Argentine midfielder Alejandro Mazzilli led the Punjab Warriors fightback. He found himself in the right place at the right time as his back handed shot crept past Tyler Lovell, giving the Aussie absolutely no chance. Apart from bringing the Punjab Warriors back into the match, the goal added a much needed dynamic to the match.
Gurinder Singh Equalizes
A few minutes later, Mazzilli once again influenced proceedings as the Punjab Warriors found themselves with two penalty corners and Sandeep Singh on the grass. Despite missing his drag-flicks, Gurinder Singh’s lightning strike on the 51th minute flew past Tyler Lovell into the Ranchi goal. Therefore, with less than ten minutes to play, all the hard work done by the Ranchi Rays had been undone.
Stanley Minz Has The Last Laugh
Unwilling to settle for an equal share of points, the Ranchi Rays were once more on the prow. Ashley Jackson’s amazing stick work ensured that the Rays were still a threat in attack. With 54 minutes gone, Stanley Minz’s deflected shot found its way past Bharat Chetri to seal the deal. Incidentally, this was Stanley Minz’s first goal in the 2015 Hockey India League.
The win sees the Ranchi Rays consolidate second position on the Hockey India League table. Harendra Singh will be particularly pleased with his defence, with the likes of Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh performing exceedingly well. With their ability to absorb the pressure and stay calm whilst defending, the Rays are the team to beat.