Mandeep Singh struck twice to help Ranchi Rhinos beat Uttar Pradesh Wizards 3-1 in a Hockey India League match that witnessed four late goals on Saturday.
After the first three quarters failed to produce any goals, Mandeep scored twice, before Jeroen Hertzberger pulled one back for the hosts.
However, Tarandeep Singh struck in the final minute to put the game beyond Wizards, and ensure five full points for the Rhinos.
Rhinos now have 22 points, same as league leaders Delhi Waveriders. But Waveriders, unbeaten in the league so far, are on top of the points table due to a better goal difference.
Both teams played very cautiously for most part of the game. By the end of the first half, the hosts had only one genuine good opportunity to score, when Raghunath’s drag-flick was well saved by Rhinos’ goalkeeper Francisco Cortes.
Wizards were dominating the play, but were unable to convert their moves into goals.
The third quarter was no different, as Wizards looked the more threatening of the two sides with Rhinos’ backline doing a solid job.
Raghunath had another go from a penalty corner, but once Cortes came to Rhinos’ rescue.
The fourth quarter, however, was a completely different story. Mandeep opened Rhinos’ account in the 58th minute, against the run of play.
In search of an equaliser, Wizards pushed more men forward, leaving behind a big hole in defence. Rhinos patiently waited for their chance, and in the 67th minute Mandeep scored from a counter attack after getting a perfect pass from the right flank.
It looked like all over for the hosts before Hertzberger scored possibly the goal of the tournament so far. In the 68th minute, Hertzberger got a long aerial ball from middle and despite being in the line of the goal-post, he managed to hit the mid-air ball like a double-handed tennis forehand into the goal from a near impossible angle.
Just when it looked like the hosts could make a match out of it, Rhinos came up with the killer blow in the very next minute through Tarandeep who made no mistake after getting a good pass in front of the Wizards’ goal.
Wizards captain, Raghunath said: “The team didn’t coordinate too well today, and our goalkeeper was a bit tardy.
We take this loss as an opportunity to improve our coordination and play well in our upcoming games.”
Ranchi Rhinos coach Gregg Clark, said, “The team played well today and seized the third quarter. We have won our games back to back now and will continue to play with the same team dynamics and hope to maintain this momentum in all our games.”
In their next home match, Uttar Pradesh Wizards take on Punjab Warriors tomorrow and Ranchi Rhinos play their next home match against Mumbai Magicians on January 28.