Slow and steady wins the race, they say. Ranchi Rhinos, for one, couldn’t agree more.
The home team did make a poor beginning in their Hockey India League match against Mumbai Magicians at Morabadi’s astroturf stadium on Monday evening, but later took a lead to pull off a nail-biting 2-1 victory.
The much-awaited match began on a thrilling note, with the guests netting a surprise goal in the opening minutes.
Soon after the tie began, the Magicians worked up their dribble charm and broke the Rhinos defence to reach the goalpost. An impressive effort to earn a brownie point in the first minute did not pay off, but earned the Mumbai team a penalty.
Penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh did not make any mistakes and drove the ball beyond the reach of a diving Rhinos goalie.
The opening goal lifted the spirits of the Magicians and put the Rhinos under pressure. The home team could not synchronise their attack, a feat they are otherwise known for.
After the first 11 minutes, the Rhinos got four penalty corners — three of them in the raw — but could not convert any of them into a goal. In the first quarter (seventeen and a half minutes), the home team were clearly dominated by the Magicians.
The second quarter brought winds of change, tipping the scales in favour of the Rhinos. The Ranchi team upped their ball possession percentage and went full throttle against Mumbai.
In the 27th minute, the Rhinos earned yet another penalty, which proved lucky. Ashley Jackson, who had earlier missed many a penalty, succeeded in converting the chance into a splendid goal.
Again in the 48th minute, after the half time, Manpreet Singh of the home team dribbled past three Magicians to land a field goal, taking the tally to 2-1.
The audience, armed with vuvuzela avatars and drums in the packed stadium, sprang to life. They danced and cheered for the Rhinos, braving a Celsius onslaught of sub-10 chill.
Ranchi Rhinos had earlier played Mumbai Magicians at the Morabadi stadium on January 18, the first game of the league in the city. Television anchor Mandira Bedi had played emcee at the inauguration, while German model Claudia Ciesla and Bollywood hotbod Udita Goswami had upped the glam quotient.
Will Rhinos remain consistent in their performance?