Dabur Mumbai Magicians' chances of making it to the top four of the Hero Hockey India League suffered another blow on Monday, as they went down 1-2 to Ranchi Rhinos in an away game at the Astroturf Stadium in Ranchi.
Goals from Ashley Jackson and Mandeep Singh were good enough to put Rhinos on level terms with Delhi Waveriders with 27 points. Magicians lost seventh straight game, with a Sandeep Singh goal proving to be futile.
Dabur Mumbai Magicians, guilty of conceding an early goal quite often in this tournament so far, got off to the best possible start. They earned a penalty corner in the first minute of the match, and Sandeep Singh made no mistake with his drag flick. The ace drag flicker scored his 10th goal of the tournament, making his position as the league's top scorer even stronger.
Ranchi Rhinos played an attacking game after going a goal down, but were unable to find an equaliser soon. The visitors earned their second penalty corner in the 10th minute, but with their specialist drag flicker Sandeep on the bench, failed to capitalise.
Rhinos earned three back to back penalty corners between the 14th and the 16th minute, but were unable to find the net. Two minutes later, Rhinos earned their fourth penalty corner, and Ashley Jackson was unlucky to miss out, as his strike beat the Magicians goalkeeper but hit the right post. The rebound shot was taken, but it struck goalie Sreejesh and the ball was soon taken out of danger.
Rhinos kept looking for the equaliser in the second half, and it eventually came in the 28th minute, of the hosts' sixth penalty corner. Mandeep Singh showed some superb skills to earn the penalty corners and this time Ashley Jackson went over Sreejesh, and his strike, hit with fierce pace, got a touch from the goalkeeper before entering the net.
Rhinos could have taken the lead just before the halftime, but Floris Evers' slow hit, which beat Sreejesh for the lack of pace, just went inches wide of the goalpost.
The third quarter saw Magicians apply the pressure on the hosts with some consistent play. They earned two penalty corners in two minutes, but Cortes made a brilliant save on the first one, while the second one was well defended, Cortes not even being troubled on that one.
And then Rhinos delivered a blow to the visitors. Collecting the ball a little ahead of the middle, Manpreet Singh dribbled past a couple of defenders, and then smacked an absolute bullet with Mandeep Singh getting the last touch before the ball went into the goalin the 49th minute.
Magicians missed another great opportunity to score, when they earned another penalty corner in the 62nd minute. With Sandeep being absent, Joel Carroll tried a variation, but Glen Turner was unable to get a touch that was required to guide the ball in the net.
Magicians threw everyone forward in search of the equaliser, but were unable to find one.
Coach Gregg Clark said, "Although we won the match I feel the team could have done better. We should have scored the penalty corner and increased the score line. But the team has done well and we hope to keep this performance up in the future too".
Ric Charlesworth said, "Although we have been trying really hard we lose our games by a 1 or 2 goal margin. Our defense in today's game was much better and the team held the opposition at bay for a long period before they could break into our D. The team is improving but have not made it to the winning mark yet".
In their next home match Ranchi Rhinos take on Delhi Waveriders on 1st February, at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium at 8 p.m. and Dabur Mumbai Magicians will play Uttar Pradesh Wizards at the MHA Stadium on 30th January at 6 p.m.