Mumbai shock Ranchi to end losing streak in Hockey India League
Down to ten men for the entire second half, a struggling Dabang Mumbai secured their first victory in the Hockey India League with a thrilling 7-5 win over table toppers and defending champions Ranchi Rays here on Wednesday.
Making light of the red card shown to their forward Yousuf Affan at the fag end of the second quarter, Mumbai produced top-drawer stuff to stun Ranchi with a spirited display that stopped the visitors four-game winning streak.
Led brilliantly by Australian captain and schemer Matthew Swann, Mumbai scored three field goals which are counted as a double strike as per the rules of the HIL through Swann, Nilakanta Sharma and Florian Fuchs after Diwakar Ram gave them an early lead with a penalty corner conversion.
For Ranchi their skipper Ashley Jackson scored twice off penalty corner awards along with Sandeep Singh at the fag-end of the game while the other goal, a fine field effort, was notched by Sarvanjit Singh.
The victory, their first in five games, took Mumbai s tally to 9, still in last position in the six-team table, while Ranchi secured one point for not losing by more than two goals and remained on top with 22 points from six games. Mumbai take on Uttar Pradesh Warriors next on February 6 at Lucknow while Ranchi would clash with Kalinga Lancers on February 8 at Bhubaneswar.
After a string of four losses Mumbai were under pressure in the do-or-die game, but came out with flying colours in the opening quarter which they totally dominated and ended up with a 1-0 lead through a penalty corner strike by former India player Diwakar Ram.
Mumbai had wasted a number of penalty corners in the last two games and then squandered two more on Wednesday before Ram earned them a goal off the third on the second attempt in the 10th minute after Harmanpreet s first shot was blocked.
Mumbai then split open the Ranchi defense by switching the ball constantly from flank to flank, but once again some poor finishing let them down.
In the second quarter too, the home team generally had the upper hand though Ranchi slowly came back into the game and equalised off their first penalty corner award which was converted by captain Jackson in the 18th minute of play.
Mumbai, however, surged in front again through an opportunistic field strike, that counts for two in the tournament, by their hard-working captain Swann who put his stick in time to deflect in an excellent centre from the left flank which was provided by Gurjant Singh.
But Mumbai suffered a big blow when frontline player Yosuf Affan was sent off with a red card for deliberately striking a rival defender with a stick just before the end of the first half, which forced them to play with ten men thereafter.
Mumbai wasted another golden chance to score again when Harmanpreet failed to find the target and instead hit the goalpost off a penalty stroke award. The ‘stroke’ was given when off the fourth penalty corner award rival captain Barry Middleton stopped a goal-bound shot from his counterpart Swann with his foot.
Mumbai allowed Ranchi to equalise the score with a field goal by Sarvanjit Singh, a long angular scoop, in the 38th minute of play and then went behind for the first time in the game through another penalty corner strike by Jackson.
The hosts made amends in the very next minute and went ahead 5-4 with an excellent first-timed shot from the top of the circle for a field goal by their impressive player Nilakanta Sharma who was fed by Swann from outside the striking circle.