Starting with the psychological edge of routing Ranchi Rays in an away match earlier, Punjab Warriors had an expected start in their first home match of the Hockey India League on Thursday. With a 1-0 triumph against Ranchi, the Punjab franchise has now registered three wins in five games.
The Warriors’ Dutch import Van der Weerden Mink along with goalkeeper Tristan Clemons of Australia were the heroes of the day. Penalty-corner specialist Mink, who was a member of the 2012 London Games silver medal-winning team, gave the home team the winner in the 24th minute with a low push.
He was on the mark again in the third quarter (49th minute), but the goal was disallowed after Ranchi Rays took a referral and third umpire gave the decision in their favour.
Ranchi Rays got as many as seven penalty corners but they failed to convert even one. The closest they came to scoring was off the fourth penalty corner, but the visitors were unlucky as, after clearly beating the goalkeeper and defender, the ball bounced off the goalpost.
Barring that, Warriors’ goalkeeper Clemons was too good under the goalpost and made some brilliant saves. He got the Man of the Match award.
Punjab’s coach Barry Dancer was full of praise for his goalkeeper. “Clemons played extremely well and made some brilliant saves. The Ranchi team had more chances compared to our team, but it was the goal that made the difference,” said Dancer.
On their second loss to Punjab Warriors in the league, Ranchi Rays’ coach Harendra Singh says, “Though we lost the match, I can say this was the best match my team has played so far in the league. Our forward line was effective in generating so many penalty corners. But the problem lies in converting them and we are struggling on this front. Hopefully, we will be able to sort this in the remaining matches.”
The Ranchi team has been awarded 37 penalty corners in eight games but has only been able to convert one with a conversion rate of three per cent. Punjab Warriors will be playing Dabang Mumbai in Chandigarh on February 11.