Jalandhar, 16 January 2013: A solid defensive display helped Ranchi Rhinos breach the citadel of Jaypee Punjab Warriors 2-1 at the Surjeet Singh Stadium to begin their campaign in the inaugural Hero Hockey India League on a winning note here on Wednesday.
The hosts had lost their opening encounter against Delhi Waveriders and needed a win to get their campaign on track. However, despite a fare better display of possession hockey, they failed to dominate the opposition.
Rhinos’ English recruit Ashley Jackson put the team ahead with a clinical drag flick in the 43rd minute and Mandeep Singh benefited from a defensive error on a hopeful cross from the right to score the second six minutes later.
Warriors looked to turn the match around in the fourth and final quarter and Aussies Kieran Govers managed to reduce the deficit with a reverse hit seven minutes from time. However, that only proved to be a consolation goal as the Rhinos withered away the storm to pick five points from the encounter.
Earlier, both teams began on cautious note, unwilling to concede any quarter to the opposition in the midfield.
The safety first approach meant that none of the teams were willing to commit more men forward and the entire first quarter did not see a single shot on goal from either side.
The best chance of the opening quarter fell to Ranchi Rhinos when their South African recruit Austin Smith earned them a penalty corner with some deft stick play in the 11th minute. However, the opportunity was wasted as they failed to collect the ball cleanly and the defenders had enough time to clear it to safety.
The hosts began pushing forward in the second quarter and managed to dominate possession but their first real chance for a goal came after the half an hour mark when Aussie Kieran Govers received an excellent diagonal pass from the right but he could not beat Rhinos goalkeeper Francisco Cortes at the near post.
A yellow card to midfielder Robert Hammond from Australia in the 32nd minute forced the hosts to then play for the half time hooter and then managed the task with relative ease.
Warriors continued to dominate possession after the chance of ends but it was the visitors who drew first blood against the run of play when a defensive error by Australian Mark Knowles handed the Rhinos their second penalty corner and Englishman Ashley Jackson made no mistake with his drag flick.
Vikas Sharma had an opportunity to double the lead four minutes later but the inexperienced striker failed to beat the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation. But Mandeep was offered an opportunity to score on a platter and the local boy made no mistake in completing the formalities.
The visitors then sat back to defend in the final quarter and despite conceding a goal they managed to see through the anxious moments and hand the Warriors their second successive loss.
Goal-scorer Mandeep Singh is very much delighted about their win in the very first match and said: “It was indeed difficult to score against Punjab’s goalkeeper. This win would have been impossible without Moritz Fuerste and Ashley Jackson they are the true heroes for today”.
Captain Moritz Fuerste is satisfied with his team’s performance and team owners’ support to the team and added: “I must give it up to Mandeep for covering Dwyer the entire game and playing well. We have just started this tournament and hope to go a long way. Winning is our motive and we look forward to going right to the end”.
Jaypee Punjab Warriors’ Kieran Govers accepted the fact that there was lack of coordination among the players. “We lacked in coordination but we will overcome from this soon,” he stated.
Coach Barry Dancer agreed with Govers’ statement, said: “Our team is gelling and learning together. We are training together and understanding each others’ game. The match was fine till we conceded a goal. I am happy with my team’s performance and we will do better in our next match.”
The Hero Hockey India League is organised by Hockey India with official sanction from the International Hockey Federation (FIH). The inaugural season is being played from January 14 to February 10, 2013 in a home-and-away format. The five franchisee-based teams, consisting of the top hockey players from India and around the world, will compete for the prestigious trophy. Hero Motocorp Ltd. is the Title Sponsor of the league while Airtel is the Associate Sponsor. Star Sports, who is the Broadcast Partner, will be telecasting all matches live.
Jaypee Punjab Warriors 1 (Kieran Govers 63) lost against Ranchi Rhinos 2 (Ashley Jackson 43, Mandeep Singh 50)
Man of the Match: Moritz Fuerste
Hero Goal of the Match: Mark Knowles
Ranchi Rhinos 5; Jaypee Punjab Warriors 1