Ranchi Rays and Dabang Mumbai scripted a dramatic 3-3 draw in a nerve-gripping thriller as the fifth edition of the Coal India Hockey India League made a sensational start at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday.
With an aim to make the game more exciting for the fans, Coal India Hockey India League had introduced an innovative rule last season where one field goal counts as two to encourage and reward more such strikes. Goals from penalty corners are counted as one as usual. This ruled proved instrumental in today’s match where both Ranchi Rays and Dabang Mumbai scored a field goal each.
Hosts, Dabang Mumbai started on an attacking note trying to penetrate the opponent’s circle, but Ranchi Rays’ brilliant defence led by Birendra Lakra ensured the hosts could not convert any of their attempts. Much of the play in the first quarter was in the midfield and the second quarter too began similarly with both teams playing a lot in the midfield.
Ranchi Rays, however, pressed hard through some classy passes but the hosts displayed their skills time and again to deny the visitors any opportunities to score. The visitors earned a penalty corner minutes into the second quarter, thanks to midfielder Manpreet Singh’s quick thinking. Trent Mitton took a shot at the post, however, the Dabang Mumbai goalkeeper David Harte’s brilliant save brought some respite for the home crowd. Later, Dabang Mumbai’s captain Florian Fuchs made two stunning attempts to score from the circle using his trademark backhand hit but unsuccessful.
Going into the third quarter, the visitors were perseverant in their attack and they were successful in bringing a breakthrough. A brilliant backhand pass well received by Junior World Cup hero Simranjeet Singh resulted in a stunning goal in the 32nd minute giving Ranchi Rays the much-needed 2-0 lead. Simranjeet was responsible for the winning goal at the Junior World Cup final against Belgium and he proved his mettle yet again this time by becoming the first to score in the fifth edition of Coal India HIL.
Dabang Mumbai were quick to make the scoreboard read 2-1 when Gurjant Singh successfully converted a penalty corner in 37th minute. But Ranchi Ray’s Christopher Ruhr was impeccable when he successfully attempted a penalty stroke in the 39th after a stick-check foul by Harmanpreet Singh resulted in a penalty corner for Ranchi Rays. This goal helped Ranchi Rays consolidate their lead to 3-1.
Fortunes fluctuated in the final quarter of the match with both Dabang Mumbai and Ranchi Rays getting plenty of chances at scoring a goal. But the hosts came from behind when a clever-thinking penalty corner variation resulted in Fuchs fetching his team a dramatic field goal to even the score.
Earlier, a glittering opening ceremony preceded the inaugural match with Lavani dancers performing to the peppy beats of the dholki while sister-due Sukriti and Prakriti Kakar enthralled the audience to popular Bollywood numbers. FIH President Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra unveiled the sparkling trophy for this year’s Coal India HIL, the winners who will get their hands on the trophy will also walk away with the prize money of a whopping Rs2.5crore.