Ranchi: Table leaders Delhi Waveriders on Friday extended their invincible run in the Hockey India league as they trounced Ranchi Rhinos 5-2 at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium here.
Delhi Waveriders have nearly sealed their place in the semi-finals with 39 points, 10 more than second-placed Rhinos. Rhinos defence, without their star defender Birendra Lakra, had an off day as Gurwinder Singh Chandi scored a brace, while Simon Child, Rupinder Pal Singh and Gurbaj Singh scored a goal each for Waveriders.
Ranchi Rhinos started the game with Sushant Tirkey in the goal instead of Cortes, and the move backfired terribly. In the third minute, Gurwinder Singh Chandi got a good ball in the left flank, but miss-timed his strike. The ball came at a very slow pace and Tirkey who was trying to kick the ball out, missed it, giving visitors an early lead.
Four minutes later, another mistake by Tirkey and some superb skills by Waveriders' forwards, made it 2-0 for Bansal's team. Simon Child collected a dreadful miss-hit from Rhinos' defender Amit Rohidas inside the circle, and with Tirkey charging too early, Child managed to hit the target forcing Rhinos to immediately replace Tirkey with Cortes.
Rhinos had their chances, when they earned penalty corners in the 11th and the 19th minute. But the hosts were unable to execute their plans on both occasions. Waveriders delivered another blow to the hosts in the second quarter, with Chandi scoring one of the best goals of the tournament so far.
Just a minute after Rhinos had missed out scoring on their second penalty corner, Akashdeep gave a brilliant pass to Chandi who was charging in the left flank. Chandi made a fabulous diving connection and managed to generate good pace to beat Cortes. Shocked by a three-goal deficit, Rhinos finally found their scoring touch in the 23rd minute. Nick Wilson got a good ball to the right of the goalpost, and even as he slipped, Wilson managed to beat Waveriders' goalie Jacobi with a reverse hit to open Rhinos' account.
Rupinder Pal Singh restored Waveriders' three-goal lead with a fierce drag-flick. Cortes managed to get a hand to the ball, but the pace on Rupider's drag flick still managed to go in the goalpost. Mandeep Singh twice collected poor balls from Waveriders' defenders after that, but failed to capitalise on both occasions.
Waveriders ended the game as a contest when Gurbaj scored their fifth goal in the 50th minute. Simon Child collected a loose ball close to the Rhinos' D, and although he was unable to take the shot, Gurbaj smacked it past Cortes to make it 5-1. The home fans had something to cheer about in the final quarter, with Manpreet Singh scoring off a penalty corner.
Delhi Waveriders captain Sardar Singh said that they don't take any team lightly as each team has something different in their store. "For this match, our strategy was to play defensive and materialise the chances whatever we get. And through this strategy, we got the result what we wanted," he said.
Ranchi Rhinos' coach Gregg Clark rued the missed chances in this match. "We got good opportunities through-out the match but we failed to utilise those chances, which cost us the match," the South African stated at the post match press conference.
Delhi Waveriders will play against Uttar Pradesh Wizards in Lucknow on 3 February while Ranchi Rhinos will face Jaypee Punjab Warriors here on Saturday.