Uttar Pradesh Wizards twice came from behind to stun defending champions Ranchi Rhinos 3-2 in their opening match of the Hockey India League here, today.
It was the hosts who took the lead in the fourth minute through their star striker Mandeep Singh who found himself at the right place at the right time to slot the ball home.
The Rhinos were the aggressive among the two sides and controlled the proceedings in the early part of the match. But Uttar Pradesh Wizards did not sit back and equalised in the 10th minute through Nikkin Thimmaiah who deflected home after trapping the ball at the goalmouth.
The Wizards got a golden opportunity to take the lead minutes later from their first penalty corner but Francisco Cortes came up with a fine save to deny captain V R Raghunath and both the teams ended the first quarter of 17-and-a-half minutes tied at 1-1.
In the second quarter, both the teams tried hard and were able to create a few bright opportunities but they failed to convert the chances and they went into the halftime locked at one-goal apiece.
The break seemed to have worked wonders for the Wizards as they looked more purposeful and threatened the Ranchi goal with constant raids.
But it was the Rhinos who once again surged ahead when Justin Reid Ross beautifully converted their second penalty corner to the left of Wizards' Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam in the 46th minute.
However, it did not take long for the Wizards to draw level for the second time in the match. V R Raghunath (51st minute) precisely executed a penalty corner five minutes later to the level the score at 2-2.
The fourth and final quarter belonged to the visitors as Pradeep Mor scored a classy field goal with a brilliant hit from top of the circle in the 63rd minute to stun the packed crowd present at the 6000-capacity Astroturf Hockey Stadium here.
By virtue of this win, the Roelant Oltmans-coached Uttar Pradesh Wizards pocketed five points, while the Rhinos will have to be content with one point as according to the rules of the tournament a defeat with a goal difference of two or less goals will give the losing side one point.
A triumphant Oltmans said, "The team played well though many players were new. I could see team effort on the ground which helped us convert chances. I do not have any strategy in place for the subsequent matches and will strategise one at a time. Our aim is to perform better than the opponent without putting much pressure on the team."
VR Raghunath, Captain of Wizards said, "I am happy that the coordination helped us beat Ranchi Rhinos on their home turf. The atmosphere here was electrifying but we were determined too."
Gregg Clark, Coach of Ranchi Rhinos said, "We dominated the game though in the end the result did not favour us. Hope to repeat the same dominance in subsequent games as well. We missed many close chances which led to the loss. The next match is against a tough team. Delhi Waveriders is a formidable opponent and we will do our homework tonight to put together a winning formula for tomorrow."
Manpreet Singh, Captain of Ranchi Rhinos said, "I am disappointed at the loss and yet would like to learn lessons from the game so as to improve our performance in next match. The audience really supported us and hopefully we will live up to their expectations tomorrow."
The Rhinos will have to overcome from the defeat quickly as they host Delhi Waveriders at the same venue tomorrow, while Uttar Pradesh Wizards will travel to Mumbai to face Dabur Mumbai Magicians after two days rest on Wednesday.