Defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors eked out a close 1-0 win over Ranchi Rays to register the maiden victory at home in the fifith edition of the Hockey India league.
Home team’s goalkeeper Tristan Clemons produced a rock solid performance in front of the post to defend the narrow lead.
Both teams were evenly poised in the first quarter, however, with just two minutes to go for the first break, Manpreet Singh came close to giving two-time champions Ranchi Rays the lead when he picked up a pass rather perfectly from Gurbaj Singh, tackled into the circle beating two defenders but his powerful strike unfortunately rebounded off the cross-bar.
Rachi Rays continued to put pressure on Punjab Warriors’ defence in the second quarter too by earning the first penalty corner of the match. But German drag-flicker Christopher Ruhr was off the mark as he sent the ball far and wide.
However, Mink van der Weerden didn’t dent his team’s hopes when Punjab Warriors won another penalty corner in the 25th minute.
Van der Weerden, who has been in top form especially with converting set pieces, gave the home crowd a reason to celebrate when he fiercely flicked the ball past Ranchi Rays keeper. This was the Dutchman’s fourth successful penalty corner attempt this season.
The Punjab Warriors ended the first half with a 1-0 lead. Punjab Warriors custodian Tristan Clemons starred in the third quarter as he pulled off two back-to-back penalty corner saves to deny Ashley Jackson.
The final quarter was tense with Ranchi Rays deciding to take risks, making desperate attempts to fetch that elusive goal.
The pressure, however, led them to make a foot foul in their own circle gifting the home team another penalty corner.
Mink van der Weerden once again sent the ball into the net, but Ranchi Rays’ Jackson went for a video referral as he felt Baljit Singh stopped the ball with his hand and the referral was upheld by the umpires.
Young Baljit Singh did not have a great day as he found himself making a foot foul in the circle, in the 52nd minute, that handed the visitors a chance to draw level when they were awarded another penalty corner.
However, a different variation by Christopher Ruhr saw the ball deflect off the post.
Desperate for goals, the visitors pressed hard and earned as many as four penalty corners in the dying minutes of the match, only to b denied by a brilliant Clemons in front of th Punjab Warriors goal.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards will take on Kalinga Lancers in Lucknow on Friday.