Ranchi: Defending champions Ranchi Rays beat Kalinga Lancers 3-2 to register and their third straight victory that took them to the top of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) table at the Birsa Munda Astro Turf Hockey Stadium here on Thursday.
After a goaless first half, Malak singh gave Lancers a 2-0 lead in the 33rd minute with a field goal which is counted as two in this edition of HIL. Six minutes later, Ashley Jackson reduced the lead to one with a successful penalty corner conversion, while Tim Deavin scored a field goal that enabled the hosts the 3-2 win.
With this win, Ranchi go to the top of the league table with 16 points from four matches, while Lancers remained second with 12 points from equal number of matches.
The match, billed as the eastern derby, started at a fiercely competitive level, with both the teams leaving no chance to score, but a spectacular display of the defensive line at both ends ensured no conversion on either sides.
The story continued in the second quarter as well, with the only change an increased attack from the hosts on Lancers. The first half saw some close chances being created but neither of the teams were able to capitalise on them.
The second half started with a flurry of attacks from Lancers who were rewarded for their attacking play in the first three minutes of the third quarter with Malak giving the visitors a hard fought lead of 2-0.
The home team in response started pressing hard and was soon rewarded in the 39th minute with a penalty corner which was successfully converted by captain Jackson.
The fourth quarter saw Rays in their attacking flow as Australian Daniel Beale made the most of a mispass and passed the ball to compatriot Deavin, who managed to beat goalkeeper Andrew Charter with a diving effort near the left baseline on the left post.
Post this, Rays were at their defensive best not allowing the visitors any chance. Numerous failed attempts to score from the visitors in the dying moments saw the match ending with a score line of 3-2 in favour of Ranchi.
The Coal India Goal of the Match award of Rs.50,000 went to Malak, while Mohammad Amir Khan from Rays walked away with the Most Entertaining Player of the Match award.
Aran Zalewski won the Man of the Match award of Rs.50,000 while his teammate Matthew Dawson won the Rs.25,000 Hero Emerging Player of the Match award.