Defending champions Ranchi Rays rode on a brace from their captain Ashley Jackson to defeat Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-2 in a Hockey India League (HIL) match at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here on Friday.
Jackson scored in the 48th and 60th minutes after Sarvanjit Singh (45th) had found the equaliser for Ranchi from a penalty corner. That helped the Rays produce a superb comeback in the final quarter after an early field goal by Ramandeep Singh (4th) had given the Wizards a 2-0 lead. Jackson was adjudged the man of the match.
This was Ranchi’s first win in the tournament. They now have six points after two matches, the same as the top two teams Punjab Warriors and Kalinga Lancers. But Punjab and Kalinga are placed higher due to a superior goal tally.
The match began with the Wizards pressing hard right from the start. Their attacking approach was duly rewarded through a spectacular field goal from Ramandeep.
The early setback prompted the visitors to adopt an aggressive game plan, but some beautiful saves from Uttar Pradesh Wizards goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh ensured that the hosts maintained their lead right through the first half.
The third quarter began with the Wizards trying hard to extend their lead, but a strong defensive display by the Rays foiled their efforts.
Ranchi, on the other hand, continued to penetrate in the Uttar Pradesh circle and their constant attacks yielded result through a penalty corner conversion by Sarvanjit in the opening minute of the final quarter.
Jackson then came up with an exceptional field goal, beating Sreejesh at the first post from a narrow-angle after a speedy attack down the right flank to ensure that the defending champions took a much needed 3-2 lead in a crucial juncture of the game.
The visitors thereafter played like champions, denying the hosts any opportunity to score, but continued penetrating into the Wizards circle. Their efforts saw results in the final moments when Jackson scored for the second time through a penalty corner ensuring a well-fought win for the defending champions.
The Wizards will next play Delhi Waveriders here on Saturday. Ranchi’s next game is a home match against the Waveriders on January 26.