Nikkin’s late goal earns 3-3 draw for Mumbai in HIL opener
Mumbai, Jan 21 (IANS) Nikkin Thimmaiah’s last-gasp field goal helped Dabang Mumbai earn a 3-3 draw against former champions Ranchi Rays in the opening match of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.
Mumbai were trailing 1-3 till the last minute, thanks to Simranjeet Singh’s field goal and Christopher Ruhr’s penalty corner conversion in the third quarter. But in the 60th minute Nikkin smartly slipped the ball past Ranchi goalkeeper Tyler Lovell from close range to ensure that Mumbai get a draw in the opening match.
Harmanpreet Singh was the other goal scorer for Mumbai in the 37th minute.
Considering the match was just the first of the campaign, the start for both the teams was slow and they lacked co-ordination, relying instead on individual brilliance. It was understandable since the teams practiced for barely 10 days beforehand.
And individual brilliance hardly created anything interesting in the first quarter and as the match progressed, the teams got into some kind of a rhythm.
The first potent opportunity was created by Ranchi in the 17th minute when a cross hit the legs of Mumbai defender Gurmail Singh, earning a penalty corner for the visitors. But Ranchi’s Trent Mitton’s flick was swept aside by an outstretched Mumbai goalkeeper David Harte.
Mumbai too got some kind of team play going and captain Florian Fuchs got the chance the put the hosts ahead in the 23rd minute. The German star attempted two left-hand strikes but failed to score past Ranchi custodian Lovell.
After the 10-minute half-time break, Ranchi looked lively and took the lead in the 32nd minute. Simranjeet, lurking in front of the circle, was fed a superb back-handed cross from the right by German forward Christopher Ruhr. The Indian turned his body facing the goal and scored past Harte on the right post to make it 2-0, with a field goal counted as two in the HIL.
A few minutes later, Manpreet Singh had the opportunity to make it 4-0. Barry Middleton’s long aerial ball saw him charge inside the Mumbai circle but Harte rushed forward to force a wayward shot from the Indian.
Mumbai then reduced the difference to one when Harmanpreet successfully converted a penalty corner in the 36th minute as the hosts trailed 1-2.
Ranchi, however regained their two-goal lead as Ruhr was spot on in converting a penalty stroke after Ashley Jackson’s drag-flick hit the body of a Mumbai defender in the 39th minute. Ruhr sent Harte the wrong way to fire it to the right post corner.
Trailing 1-3 going into the fourth and final quarter, Mumbai did their best to level the scores and rightfully earned two penalty corners. But Ranbchi goalkeeper Lovell was alert to deny Harmanpreet and Jeremy Hayward.
Mumbai generated ample scoring chances towards the end, pulling out all the stops to equalise. Chances came for Affan Yousuf and Gurjant Singh but both of them wasted the opportunities.
Ranchi’s experienced defensive quartet of Birendra Lakra, Timothy Deavin, Fergus Kavanagh and Gurmail absorbed the pressure barring the last minute action.
Mumbai earned a penalty corner and they smartly made it a field goal opportunity by receiving the ball outside the circle and playing the ball to Nikkin, who wriggled past Lovell to put the ball in to make it 3-3.