Bhubaneswar: It was quite a positive and dominant start for the Kalinga Lancers who got off defeating debutants Ranchi Rays 6-3 in a goal-fest opening match of the third edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) at the Kalinga Stadium here Thursday.
For a team which finished last in 2014, the Lancers left behind the disappointment and came out strong to defeat the Rays, which has many players from the now non-defunct Ranchi Rhinos.
The start of the first quarter saw the ball travelling from one end of the turf to the other but the home team struck immediately through Argentine Lucas Vila, who struck a brilliant field goal by reverse flicking his shot past Rays’ custodian Lovell Tyler.
The ball was slowed down by Tyler but it just managed to crawl over the line to give the Lancers the lead in the third minute.
Within minutes, the Lancers earned three back-to-back penalty corners, all taken by recently crowned international hockey federation’s (FIH) Rising Star of the Year Gonzalo Peillat. However, the Argentine failed to convert all chances.
The initiative was immediately taken by the Rays when a counterattack levelled the match with England’s Barry Middleton scoring the equaliser in the 15th minute.
The second quarter entirely belonged to the Lancers who took a two-goal lead via the efforts of Ryan Archibald (17th minute) and skipper Vickram Kanth (18th). The home team went into halftime with a convincing 3-1 advantage.
Motivation from coach Harendra Singh may have helped the Rays who came out a lot more aggressive in the second half. The result was that the visitors scored from their first penalty corner via captain and drag-flicker Ashley Jackson in the 36th minute to make the score 2-3.
However, the Lancers were on the move again and delighted the home crowd in the very next minute when drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh converted to retake the two-goal lead (4-2).
The Rays had to score to have any chance in the match and captain Jackson once again came to the rescue to score his second and his team’s third goal in the 49th minute.
The visitors were now desperate and made all attempts to somehow level the match but the Lancers’ defence was at its peak, deflecting everything that came its way.
Lancers forward Mandeep Antil provided some more entertainment for the crowd, which went berserk when his diving goal went past the keeper. Mohammed Amir Khan rubbed salt on the wounds of Rays when he pushed in one more for the Lancers in the last minute to make it 6-3 for the home team.