Defending champion Ranchi Rhinos began the 2014 Hero Hockey India League campaign on a losing note going down to Uttar Pradesh Wizards by the odd goal in five in an entertaining match here on Sunday.
Watched by a partisan capacity crowd, Wizards put up a sterling display after being in arrears twice before producing the match-clincher in the fourth quarter to emerge a deserving victor.
Early aggression by the home side produced the first goal when one of the team’s prolific scorers Mandeep Singh seemed to have touched the goal-bound ball in the fourth minute with the match official awarding the goal. Midway through the quarter, Nikhin Thimmaiah equalised with a gem five minutes later making the most of a wrong clearance from one of the Ranchi defenders.
When the play resumed in the third quarter, Ranchi Rhinos produced some lovely moves to put pressure on the rival team. Expectedly the UP goal fell when Justin Reid Ross beat Kumar Subramanim under the bar with a powerful drag-flick off a penalty corner in the 46th minute. The joy was however, short-lived as India’s drag-flick expert V.R. Raghunath restored parity five minutes later with a powerful effort following a penalty corner.
It was 2-2 at the end of the third quarter. The final quarter saw the Wizards asserting itself.
In one of the many moves, Pradeep Mor unleashed a rising shot from a difficult angle from the right side in the 63rd minute. The ball flew into the net to give the lead to the visitors.
Ranchi Rhinos threw everything into attack. Mandeep’s goal was disallowed for infringement. As the game ended, UP Wizards not only earned five points but also inflicted its first home defeat on the host. UP goalkeeper Subramanian was adjudged the Man of the Match.
The result: Uttar Pradesh Wizards 3 (Nikhin Thimmaiah 9, V.R. Raghunath 51 and Pradeep Mor 63) bt Ranchi Rhinos 2 (Mandeep Singh 4 and Justin Reid Ross 46).