The first Semi Final of the Hero Hockey India League 2015 saw intense competition between Uttar Pradesh Wizards and Ranchi Rays as they fought hard for a place in Final to be played tomorrow. At the end of regulation time of 60 minute (4 quarters of 15 minutes each) the scores were tied 1-1 resulting in a penalty shootout, which MS Dhoni’s team won.
The spectators and viewers on TV across the world, witnessed spectacular hockey as both the teams ensured that they did not give the other the chance to walk away with the game. The shoot-out was neck-neck until 2 rounds and in the third round Ranchi Rays’ outwitted the Wizards to come out winners on sudden death and became the first Finalist of the League 2015. The final score for the match is 1-1 (9-8 SO).
The first quarter saw both teams trying to penetrate the circle and create opportunities and get the initial goal to their name. But failing to capitalize in the entire session the quarter ended with 0-0 on the scoreboard.
Immediately into the second quarter Uttar Pradesh Wizards was seen increasing the momentum of attack and trying to put pressure on the opponents. Just minutes into the quarter it was Ranchi Rays who got the first penalty corner of the day and a chance for Ashley Jackson to add another goal to his personal tally. But a brilliant save by Sreejesh denied Ranchi the goal. The same minute Uttar Pradesh Wizards had a clean chance to put the ball in the nets but the ball was hit wide of the goal much to the relief of Tyler Lovell. Next minute Ranchi got another go at the penalty corner and going for a variation Ashley passed the ball to Austin Smith who made no mistake in trying to get the ball to the nets, but Sreejesh was again waiting to clean the danger. Same minute Ranchi had another penalty corner in their name but Sreejesh saved it, leaving Ranchi Rays frustrated. With no goals score the second half ended with 0-0.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards got their first penalty corner in the 34th minute and Raghunath did not do any mistake in getting the ball past Tyler Lovell giving him no chance to stop the goal. With the goal Uttar Pradesh Wizards opened the scorecard 1-0. In the 41st minute Mandeep Singh entering the D with the ball was pushed because of which Ranchi Rays were awarded a penalty stroke. Taking the strike, Ashley scored effortlessly without giving his team the equalizer goal. Just a minute away from the end of quarter, Uttar Pradesh Wizards bagged their second penalty corner in but this time Raghunath missed the opportunity to go one up in the game. At the end of the quarter both teams were tied 1-1.
The fourth quarter also saw good stick work and good defence by both the teams in the entire session not yielding a single goal. But just two minutes left for the match to end, Ranchi were awarded with a penalty corner and a chance to take the lead and win the match, but was saved by the Wizards strong defence. Just seconds left in the match Ramandeep Singh passed the ball to Bob De Voogd who hit hard towards the goal but was blocked by Lovell Tyler. With the scores tied at 1-1 the match entered the Penalty Shootout.
The Tie-breaker saw George Bazeley come forward to take guard under the bar for the Uttar Pradesh Wizards. With many twists and turns the first tie-breaker having got tied resulted in the second tie-breaker. The second tie-breaker yielded the same results and the scored were again tied. Resulting in the third tie-breaker the first two strikes by Jeroen Hertzberger and Ashley Jackson successfully scored for their teams. It was Uttar Pradesh Wizards that missed the second strike when Alexander Baart was unsuccessful in converting. Coming in to take the next strike it was important for Daniel Beale to score for Ranchi Rays to reach the finals. He made no mistake as he intelligently put the ball past George Bazeley, resulting in Ranchi Rays winning the match 1-1 (9-8 SO).
Post the match, Jolie Wouter, Captain, Uttar Pradesh Wizards said “We played really good today and it was tough competition. We were very close to the finals and we are very disappointed. Bazeley defended very well in the penalty shootout but unfortunately we lost.”
Speaking on the win Ashley Jackson, Ranchi Rays said “We are happy that we finally won. We played very well. We had many chances but we could not capitalise. But at the end of the day we won and it is a happy feeling. Being on the top of the goal table doesn’t matter to me what matters is that we won.”
Hero Goal of the Match – Daniel Beale, Ranchi Rays
Man of the Match – Ashely Jackson, Ranchi Rays