The first home game of the Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the Hockey Indian League had the ingredients of a thriller, and even the 1-2 defeat against defending champions Ranchi Rhinos did little to dampen spirits.
"We needed to beat the Wizards on their home turf as they had defeated us in the opener on our home ground," said Rhinos' coach Gregg Clark. "We knew the turf was a bit heavy so we had a different plan and I am happy the boys executed it well," he added.
Knowing the strength of the Wizards, especially captain V Raghunath, the visitors didn't allow their rivals to earn too many penalty corners after Ashley Jackson had converted one at the stroke of the first quarter.
This, however, infused new energy in the hosts, who pressed hard to restore parity. The Rhinos got their second goal in the second quarter when Barry Middleton netted the ball without being tested by the defenders.
After changing ends, the Wizards adopted an aggressive strategy and created a few openings but the Rhinos defence, led by captain Moritz Furste, managed to thwart them.
The Wizards pulled one back in the 50th minute through Edward Ockenden's field goal to raise the hopes of home fans, but that turned out to be the only goal-scoring effort.
"We missed many a chance. Our players were a bit slow and failed to show their calibre," said Wizards' coach Roelant Oltmans.
"We need to pull up our shocks in the second game against Jaypee Punjab Warriors," he added.
Captain Raghunath termed the loss as disappointing, especially after the team's back-to-back wins but promised a better show.
"Yes, it's disappointing as it was a loss on home turf. But we hope to come up with a better show against table toppers Warriors on Sunday."
In a bottom of the table clash, Kalinga Lancers beat Mumbai Magicians 2-1 to earn their first point in the second edition. Playing in Bhubaneswar's Kalinga stadium, the Lancers' went up in the 8th minute through a Lucas Villa strike and doubled the lead in the 25th minute through Australia's Aran Zalweski.