Defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors opened their account in the fifth edition of the Hockey India League with an incredible 7-0 thrashing of Ranchi Rays in Ranchi on Wednesday.
Mink Van Der Weerden (25th), S V Sunil (26th and 34th), Jake Whetton (43rd) scored for the Punjab side to walk away with five points.
Played in front of a vocal crowd, there was no doubt that this clash was going to be played with pace and skill and the teams did not disappoint. They both raced out of the blocks at a frenetic pace, attacking each other constantly, but it was the visitors who dominated on Wednesday.
Playing only their second game in the season, the defending champions were eager for a win and dished out an inspired game after losing to Dabang Mumbai in their first outing.
They missed an early chance to take the lead from a field goal in the first quarter as Nithin Thimmaiah could not quite find the target after a good assist by S V Sunil. But Punjab made up for the fumble when they opened their scoreboard with a splendid penalty corner converted by Mink Van Der Weerden in the 25th minute.
It was skipper Sardar Singh’s near-perfect injection that was improvised by Weerden finding the left pocket, beating in-form Ranchi Rays keeper Tyler Lovell.
Almost immediately, Punjab Warriors forward S V Sunil, known for his lightning speed on the turf, took the defending champions to a 3-0 lead with a pulsating field goal. The Coorg lad came up with a class act when Jake Whetton and he worked a brilliant combination to penetrate the circle and fetch a superb goal in the 26th minute.
Returning from the ten-minute break at half-time, the visitors did not take too long to put pressure on Ranchi Rays with yet another field goal taking their lead to a comfortable 5-0.
It was S V Sunil who struck again, stunning the home crowd, with an unconventional goal in the 34th minute. A back hander from Sardar Singh aimed at the post, after he received a perfect pass by Simon Orchard, was deflected into the goal off Sunil’s stick.
Ranchi Rays, on the other hand, struggled to convert the chances they earned with several forays into the circle.
Punjab Warriors forward-line continued to dominant the third quarter and this time it was Jake Whetton, after a brilliant assist by Satbir Singh, who pumped another field goal taking their lead to a formidable 7-0.
The final quarter witnessed the visitors make unnecessary fouls that saw two of their players shown green cards and in-turn won Ranchi Rays two successive penalty corners.
Ranchi Rays’ desperate attempts to convert the penalty corners went in vain. The home team, at this juncture, seemed like they missed the services of German drag flicker Christopher Ruhr who sat out due to ill health.
Coach Harendra Singh would not be a happy man with his team’s inability to convert the several penalty corners won by them and this perhaps cost them the match.