The Ranchi Rays were crowned the new Hockey India League champions after they defeated Punjab Warriors in an exciting HIL final. Tied 2-2 at full time, the game went into the penalty shootout where MS Dhoni’s Ranchi Rays emerged ultimate winners by defeating their opponents 3-2. This is the second time in three seasons that a Ranchi-based franchise has won the Hockey India League.
HIL Final – Attacks traded on both ends as first half yields no goals:
The Major Dhyan Chand stadium in New Delhi saw thousands of hockey faithful flock the arena. The game took off at a frenetic pace and Ranchi Rays attacked upfront right from pushback. The Warriors too responded well with their defence and initiated few counter-attacks. Ranchi had an early opportunity in the 6th minute through Prabhdeep Singh, who had an early shot at goal.
The defenders were having a great night at the Major Dhyan Chand stadium. Birendra Lakra once again played an important role for the Ranchi Rays and was well supported by Fergus Kavanagh and Kothajit Singh. For the Punjab Warriors, Sandeep Singh, Christopher Cirello and Mark Knowles were successful in keeping the Ranchi strikers at bay. No goals came in the first 30 minutes and the game was poised at 0-0 at half time.
3rd quarter: Kieran Govers puts Punjab in lead, Minz equalizes for Ranchi Rays
After the pacy first half, a shower of opportunities was certain in the second half. In the 39th minute, Kieran Govers of Punjab Warriors scored a brilliant goal off his first touch to put his team in the lead. After the goal, it seemed like the Ranchi Rays doubled their speed and began to attack more fiercely. This also helped them win a penalty corner and Ashley Jackson’s drag-flick was blocked by Jaap Stockmann, the Punjab keeper. Minz received the rebound and tapped the ball home for an equalizer in the 42nd minute.
4th quarter: Cirello scores, Barry Middleton draws level to take game into penalties
The fourth quarter of the grand finale was probably one of the best quarters in the HIL history. Punjab Warriors were in desperate need of a goal and they found a penalty corner at the perfect time. Christopher Cirello’s drag-flick in the 56th minute went past Tyler Lovell and the Punjab defender set off to a celebratory run. Their joy was short lived as Ranchi Rays came back to equalize once again in the very next minute. A smart pass by Trent Mitton found Barry Middleton inside the shooting circle and the latter scored a brilliant goal to take the game into penalties.
Ranchi Rays prevail in penalties:
Ranchi Rays entered a second straight penalty shootout after the one in the semifinal against Uttar Pradesh Wizards. Simon Orchard took the first penalty for Punjab Warriors but Tyler Lovell denied him with a fantastic save. For the Ranchi Rays, Ashley Jackson converted his penalty to hand the Ranchi Rays a one-goal advantage. Punjab were back into the contest as Christopher Cirello netted his penalty while Birendra Lakra was denied by Jaap Stockmann. The score read 1-1 after two penalties each.
Dharamvir Singh of Punjab Warriors converted his penalty to get his side back into the lead. In reply, Daniele Beale too scored for Ranchi and it was anyone’s game. Tyler Lovell then produced the moment of the match when he denied Punjab forward SV Sunil with an outstanding save. Manpreet Singh converted the next penalty and now Ranchi were in the lead. It was a ‘save to win’ situation for the Rays and Tyler Lovell did exactly that. The Ranchi Rays’ supporters were on their feet and they let out chants of victory which resounded through the arena.
Awards at the HIL final presentation:
HIL Fair play award: Uttar Pradesh Wizards
Maximum goals trophy: Punjab Warriors
Dhruv Batra motivator of the tournament: PR Sreejesh (UP Wizards)
Most Valuable Player of the tournament: Ashley Jackson (Ranchi Rays)
Ponty Chadha award for most promising player: Harmanpreet Singh (Ranchi Rays)