Super Rhinos storm into final
Mandeep, Wilson slam a brace each in hosts emphatic victory
Mandeep Singh and Nick Wilson scored twice each to help hosts Ranchi Rhinos beat Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-2 in a thrilling encounter and enter the summit clash of the inaugural Hockey India League in front of a packed Astroturf Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.
Rhinos scored through field goals from Mandeep Singh (5th minute, 66th) and Nick Wilson (32nd, 64th), while Nithin Thimmaiah (16th, 54th) was the goal-getter for Wizards.
Encouraged by a capacity home crowd it was Rhinos who started the proceedings on a bright note and were soon rewarded for their efforts when Mandeep scored in the fifth minute after latching on to a loose ball inside the ‘D’.
Stunned by the early goal, the UP side pressed hard with numerous raids into the rival citdel but with no purpose till the 16th minute when Thimmaiah equalised for the visitors.
Thimmaiah found the back of the Rhinos net with a reverse hit after she was beautifully set up by Dutch legend Tuen de Nooijer.
Rhinos earned as many as four penalty corners in the first two quarters only to be denied by a brilliant George Bazeley under the UP bar.
However, Rhinos managed to regain lead three minutes from the opening half through Wilson who scored from a goal-mouth melee. Wizards, however, protested the goal and went for the referral which was rejected.
Wizards got an opportunity to equalise soon when they were awarded their first penalty corner at the stroke of half-time, but the visitors wasted the chance.
Rhinos started on the same breath after the change of ends and earned their fifth penalty corner in the opening minute of the second half but failed to capitalise on it.
Rhinos’ game got better and better as the match progressed. Wizards, on the other hand, threatened with occasional forays.
Both the teams created opportunities in the third quarter but without any result.
The Wizards, however, made a great start to the fourth quarter as Thimmaiah got the visitors on level terms scoring from a rebound after De Nooijer’s intial touch hit the body of Ranchi custodian Francisco Cortes.
It took two brilliant field goals from the Rhinos in a span of three minutes to seal the game and a place in Sunday’s title clash. Wilson scored his second goal of the day in the 64th minute from the top of the ‘D’ after a solo run from the midfield.