Delhi Waveriders maintained their unbeaten record in the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) by beating Ranchi Rhinos in a nine-goal thriller at the Astroturf Stadium.
Rupinder Pal Singh scored a brace, while Akashdeep Singh, Gurvinder Singh Chandi and Tim Jenniskens scored a goal each for the visitors in their 5-4 win. For Rhinos, Ashley Jackson scored a brace, while Justin Ross and Mandeep Singh scored a goal each. "This is the best match of the tournament so far," Waveriders' skipper Sardar Singh said.
Waveriders continue to top the points table with 22 points, eight clear of second placed Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
The first half was about two goals and two missed opportunities. Delhi Waveriders went ahead in the fifth minute. Gurvinder Singh Chandi hit a strong hit from top of the circle, and Akashdeep Singh deflected the ball in the goal, giving Rhinos goalkeeper no chance.
The lead, however, didn't last for more than eight minutes. Rhinos' Moritz Fuerste struck a hard hit, towards Justin Ross in the centre of the Delhi circle. Ross had time to stop the ball, swing around, and smack a reverse hit in the left corner.
Rhinos had a chance to take the lead in the 22nd minute, when Moritz Fuerste took the goalkeeper out of his position, beat him, and made an accurate pass to Mandeep Singh, who had to just tap the ball in an empty goal. Mandeep inexplicably missed the ball completely, as it went just inches away from the goal-post. Five minutes later, Rhinos again could have gone ahead, as Sardar Singh made a blunder. He tried to back-pass the ball, but ended up miss-passing it to Rhinos' Nick Wilson. Wilson beat the lone defender, drew the goalkeeper out, and struck the shot with goalkeeper out of his position, as the ball just went wide of the right post.
Rhinos had to pay for these missed chances in the third quarter, as Waveriders scored twice. Rhinos did take the lead though, before that. In the 45th minute, they had a penalty corner, and the hit looked like going into the net, before a Waveriders' defender directed it out with his leg, earning Rhinos a penalty stroke. Ashley Jackson made no mistake, scoring the first goal off a penalty stroke in this tournament. This time the equaliser took just a minute, Rupinder Singh Pal scoring off a penalty corner. And four minutes later, Gurvinder Singh Chandi put Waveriders in the lead. Danish's hard hit from the quarter-line of Ranchi went to Chandi, who showed superb presence of mind and great sense of positioning in deflecting the ball into the goal.
Waveriders then got a penalty corner in the 53rd minute, but their attempted variation failed to yield a goal. Four minutes later, the visitors got another penalty corner, and this time they stuck to the basics. Rupinder Singh Pal smacked an absolute bullet, low to the left of Cortes, who had replaced Sushant in the goal in the third quarter, to put Waveriders 4-2 ahead. It was smart striking from Rupinder, as he had gone to the goalkeeper's right for his first goal of the game.
Waveriders' two goals had made the crowd go quiet, but it erupted with joy, as Rhinos pulled one back. A bouncing ball came to Mandeep Singh right in front of post, and he smartly directed it in the goal, beating Jacobi.
The last 10 minutes of the game were played at a furious pace. Rhinos got two penalty corners in two minutes, and Ashley Jackson made no mistake with the second one, hitting it low to the right of the goalkeeper. Just a minute later, in the 64th, it was Waveriders' turn to earn a penalty corner, and score. Rupinder's hit was saved by Cortes, but rebound went to Tim Jenniskens, whose hit struck a defender and went in the goal.Rhinos had a chance to equalise in the next minute, but they failed to convert a penalty corner.
In their next home match Delhi Waveriders take on Dabur Mumbai Magicians on 26th January, at the MDC National Stadium at 7 p.m.