Showcasing exemplary defensive skills, Uttar Pradesh Wizards and Ranchi Rays played out a goalless draw in the fifth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) in Ranchi on Saturday.
The first quarter witnessed top-class hockey as both teams matched each other’s skill and tempo, neither of them allowing the other to take advantage despite trading a few Penalty Corners early on.
It was Wizards who won the first PC in the 7th minute after launching a rapid attack by Seve van Ass. But the chance couldn’t be converted by Argentine dragflicker Gonzalo Peillat.
The home team weren’t far behind when it came to earning PCs, they bagged their first in the 9th minute but Ashley Jackson’s fierce flicks was stopped beautifully by Wizards defender Kothajit Singh. Another PC won by Wizards’ forward Akashdeep Singh was dully denied by the home team’s defence thus ending the first quarter in a stalemate.
Though there were plenty of forays made into the striking circle, neither teams got lucky in the second quarter. A fantastic chance created by Ranchi Rays’ Mohd Amir Khan when he cut inside the circle and passed the ball to Flynn Ogilvie in the 26th minute went in vain as the Aussie’s push was not enough to send it past PR Sreejesh.
This was perhaps the home team’s best chance at taking a 2-0 lead but the two teams stayed in the contest with the score reading 0-0 at half-time.
The pressure of this high stakes match caught on when Ranchi Rays’ defender Gurbaj Singh gave away a PC, thanks to a stick tackle within the striking circle. The Wizards, however, tried a different variation that saw VR Raghunath act as a dummy drag flicker with the ball being tactfully passed to Seve van Ass after Ramandeep Singh’s near-perfect injection.
But the fierce strike went off-course when Ranchi Rays’ young gun Sumit came up with a brilliant tackle that ensured the visitors did not get away with a lead. The inability of both teams to convert the number of PCs created would be a cause to worry for coaches Harendra Singh of Ranchi Rays as well as Roelant Oltmans of Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
The two teams were goalless when they entered the fourth quarter. Uttar Pradesh Wizards found another chance to earn a goal in the 49th minute. But Junior World Cup hero was incredible yet again as the first rusher when he tackled Gonzalo Peillat’s drag flick rather perfectly.
With about six-and-a-half minutes left for the game to end, Mohd Amir Khan found a perfect opportunity to fetch a goal after a brilliant assist by Sumit but the ball rebounded off the post.
Meanwhile, Wizards lost another chance to convert the PC in the dying minutes of the match when VR Raghunath’s flick was saved at the goal line by English man Barry Middleton denying the visitors the goal that perhaps could have been a decider of the game.