New Delhi: The Hockey India League battle between the table-toppers lived up to its billing with a keenly contested match that saw Ranchi Rhinos come from behind to hold league leaders Delhi Waveriders to a 2-2 draw. Delhi maintained their unbeaten run with this draw that took their points tally up to 34 points, while Ranchi strengthened their second position on the leaderboard with 29. All the teams have now played 8 matches.
The two sides chose to measure each other up in the first quarter until the deadlock was broken in the 14th minute by Ranchi. South African midfielder Justin Reid Ross was in a perfect position to receive Ashley Jackson's pass in Delhi's striking circle, and he made no mistake to put his aerial shot past Delhi goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi's outstretched left hand to pierce the net.
Delhi came close to equalising early in the second quarter with a crafty one-two between Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Talwinder Singh, but the effort went in vain. The hosts finally drew level in the 20th minute when a cross from the right flank first touched Lloyd Norris Jones's stick and then went into the Ranchi goal off one of their defenders.
It was Delhi's second draw in 8 games, which kept their unbeaten record and top position intact with 34 points.
Ranchi almost went into the lead in the 30th minute but a nice cross from the right by Amit Rohidas couldn't find a Ranchi stick and went harmlessly across the Delhi post. Then three minutes from half-time, Andres Mir Bel had the chance to score Delhi's second goal but his crack at beating Cortes lacked both strength and direction.
Action picked up after half-time and required Jacobi to rush out in the 43rd minute to make a terrific save, with Floris Evers lurking over a loose ball. In the 45th minute, Evers once again threatened, this time in combination with Birendra Lakra, but the duo were thwarted by an alert Delhi defence. Delhi could have nudged ahead in the 48th minute with their only penalty corner of the match but Tim Jenniskens couldn't stop the ball cleanly.
The hosts went ahead 2-1 in the 53rd minute through Yuvraj Walmiki. Just before the hooter was sounded to end the third quarter, a long ball from outside the Ranchi 25-yard line got the all important touch from Walmiki.
Ranchi earned their first and only penalty corner in the 56th minute, but Jacobi dived to his right to deny Jackson, who tried a low-rising flick. The final goal of the match, which earned Ranchi two important points, came in the 61st minute. Vikas Chaudhary's run down the right flank ended in a timely minus pass to Evers who was right in front of the goal and had to just tap the ball in to make it 2-2.
Walmiki could have settled the issue in the 66th minute in Delhi's favour when he made a perfect move to receive a through ball but pushed it a little too far ahead of him against Cortes who came running out of the goal. Delhi were down to 10 men in the last three and a half minutes when a needless tackle by Sardar forced the referee to show him a yellow card, but the team held firm to deny Ranchi a win.