Mumbai: Mumbai Magicians ended their campaign on a disappointing note after going down 0-1 to Ranchi Rhinos in the final league game of the Hero Hockey India League at Mumbai Hockey Association Stadium here on Thursday.
Rhinos, who were guaranteed to finish second and face UP Wizards in the semi-final before this match started, earned five points through a superb field goal from Nick Wilson in the final quarter. Magicians suffered their 11th defeat in 12 games in this tournament, to finish at the bottom of the table.
Just like the evening match between Uttar Pradesh Wizards and Delhi Waveriders, this game also saw no goals being scored in the first half. There were chances a plenty, but the deep defenders and goalkeepers of both the teams were superb. Rhinos earned the first penalty corner of the game in the first quarter, but were unable to convert it. Magicians made a number of attacks, entering the Rhinos circle at regular intervals.
They earned two penalty corners in the first half, but Sandeep Singh, the tournament's leading goal-scorer, misfired on both occasions. Sandeep, who has scored 11 goals, all on penalty corners, missed eight penalty corners in the last three games.
The third quarter was also played at same pace, and soon Magicians earned their third penalty corner of the night, as Glen Turner made a good move to enter the Rhinos' D. The push was not stopped properly for Sandip to have a go at the drag flick. The ball went to Mathew Swann, who had a clear shot on goal. However, he ended up hitting the ball wide, and the score-line stayed 0-0.
Rhinos earned their second penalty corner just a few minutes later, but the execution was poor, as the push was not stopped properly. Mathew Butterani put a lot of pressure on the rhinos defence in the last couple of minutes of the third quarter, and earned a penalty corner in the last minute, as a Rhinos player deliberately hit the ball out of play inside the D.
Sandeep went low to the goalkeeper's right this time, but Manpreet Singh did a brilliant job of deflecting the ball out of the danger area to deny the 26-year-old full back. Magicians resumed where they had left, earning another penalty corner in the first minute of the fourth quarter, as Faisal Saari was brought down inside the Rhinos' D. And once again, the push was not stopped properly, for the third time in this game by Magicians.
Magicians earned their sixth penalty corner of the game just a minute later, due to some reckless defending by Rhinos. Chinglensana was the Magicians' player brought down this time. And once again, Sandeep's drag flick was deflected wide by a Rhinos defender.
The deadlock was finally broken with nine minutes of play left. Vikas Choudary collected the ball from ahead of the half line, took the ball inside the Magicians D, and gave a majored pass to Nick Wilson. Wilson controlled the bouncing ball well, and struck a reverse hit past charging Magicians goalie Rao to put Rhinos 1-0 ahead.
Magicians still had time to get two more penalty corners. In the absence of Sandeep, Jasrotia took the drag flick, and Cortes made a good save to maintain Rhinos' lead. Cortes was outstanding under the bar, making at least 10 saves.
Ranchi coach Gregg Clark said that the team could have done much better in this match: "The game was alright but psychologically we were better than previous matches. We could have done better in this match. It doesn't matter who we will face in the semis, we just need to win the match to reach Final match."