Bhubaneswar: Defending champions Ranchi Rays took a big step towards the semi-finals as they inflicted a second successive defeat on Kalinga Lancers 3-2 in the Hockey India League (HIL) at the Kalinga Stadium here on Monday.
Mohammad Amir Khan scored the winner in the 49th minute with a field goal, counted as two in this edition of HIL. Lancers took a 2-0 lead in the first quarter with Dharamvir Singh’s tap-in before Ashley Jackson reduced the difference to one with a successful penalty corner conversion.
Amir’s back-hand strike gave the visitors the lead that they managed to hang on till the end as they registered their fourth win in the last five matches.
Ranchi’s win pushed Lancers to second position with 23 points from eight matches while the defending champions secured the top slot with 27 points from seven matches.
Eyeing to edge out each other, Lancers and Rays started playing aggressively from the beginning. Touted as the eastern derby, Rays had defeated Lancers at home in the edition last week and it was time for Lancers to level it in their final match at home.
And their start was brilliant. They opened their account when Dharamvir positioned himself perfectly to come up with an early strike and smashed the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Tyler Lovell.
However, Rays bounced back immediately and earned a penalty corner which was brilliantly capitalised on by skipper Jackson.
Both the teams scored in the first quarter. But the host team were leading by 2-1, courtesy the new rules introduced in the tournament.
The defending champions and host team tried hard to find the net throughout the second quarter as their strikers opened a couple of chances. But, the defenders of both the teams denied every attempt. In the process, Lancers earned a penalty corner as Gurjinder Singh fired straight at goalkeeper Lovell.
With the beginning of the third quarter, both the teams continued playing attacking shots not giving any room to score. The players were leaving no stone unturned to edge out each other.
With just a few seconds remaining to the end of the third quarter, Ranchi earned a penalty corner only to be thwarted by Lancers goalkeeper Andrew Charter, who saved a couple of goals for the team in the match.
But, Rays were not ready to leave behind the host team in the match. With the beginning of the fourth quarter, Ranchi produced a magnificent goal. Superb skills from Amir gave Ranchi a 3-2 lead with 11 minutes to go.
However, the host team earned a penalty corner hoping to level the score. But their hopes quickly faded away when Matthew Dawson’s flick was blocked by Lovell.
Having achieved the lead in the match, Rays tried to pass the time by passing the ball among themselves eventually snatching victory from the host team.