After two weeks of thrilling action in 2016 Coal-India Hockey India League, defending champions Ranchi Rays are at the top of the point table with 4 victories from 5 matches. Behind them at joint second spot are Kalinga Lancers and last year’s runners-up JayPee Punjab Warriors. Dabang Mumbai are the lone team to have lost all their four matches. The fourth edition of the double-Round-Robin Hockey India League got underway on January 18 and now the league-phase has come to the halfway stage. After the last league game on February 17, top four teams will proceed to Ranchi for the knock-out stage. Two semifinals will be played on February 20 and final with the third-place match on February 21. The 2016 edition comes with an interesting rule change. The organizers have attempted to bring the focus back on the traditional art of scoring goals with a premise that effort vested in scoring field goals is far higher than in penalty corners. Therefore, in the 2016 Hockey India League, weightage for field goals have been doubled. In all matches played so far, one field goal has been counted as two, while goals scored from penalty corner will be a single goal. However, penalty stroke conversion is also being counted as two goals. If the HIL experiment succeeds, the concept can be extended at global scale in future tournaments. Seven matches played in the second week of the tournament turned out to be as exciting as those in the first week. The top three teams; Ranchi Rays, Kalinga Lancers and Jaypee Punjab Warriors won their matches while Dabang Mumbai suffered their fourth consecutive loss.
In match no.7 on January 24, Jaypee Punjab Warriors defeated Dabang Mumbai 3-1 at Chandigarh to record their second successive home victory. Punjab’s Armaan Qureshi scored an exquisite field goal in 9th minute and that took the hosts 2-0 ahead. In second quarter, Punjab enhanced their lead to 3-0 from a penalty corner conversion. In the third quarter, Mumbai pulled one back from a 39th minute penalty corner.
On January 25, Kalinga Lancers thrashed UP Wizards 10-2 at Lucknow. The Wizards started off well and scored from a penalty stroke to take a 2-0 lead. In second quarter, however, Lancers’ Aran Zalewski leveled the tie 2-2 after scoring from a field goal. Then the visitors scored two more field goals in a space of two minutes to jump to a 6-2 lead. Glen Turner scored one in 43rd minute and Lalit Upadhyay followed up with another. Wizards failed to recover from the deficit as Lancers scored twice more. They converted a penalty stroke and struck another field goal in fourth quarter to finish the goal riot.
On January 26, Ranchi Rays scored a 2-1 home win against Delhi Waveriders. After the goalless first quarter, Delhi took a 1-0 lead from a penalty corner by Rupinder Pal Singh. But as the second quarter came to an end, Ranchi captain Ashley Jackson equalized from a penalty corner. No field goals accrued in the match but Ranchi took the lead from another penalty corner goal by Jackson in the third quarter.
Ranchi won another home game 3-2 on January 28 against Kalinga Lancers. In a hard-fought game, where first two quarters went goalless, Lancers drew the first blood in third quarter, when Malak Singh instinctively struck an aerial pass first time at the back of the net. After trailing 0-2, Ranchi fought hard and scored from an Ashley Jackson penalty corner in 39th minute. Ranchi went ahead soon, when Timothy Deavin capitalized on a defensive lapse by a Lancers’ defender. No further goals accrued and Ranchi won 3-2.
On January 29, Dabang Mumbai slumped to their third defeat on trot losing 3-4 at home to Delhi Waveriders. The visitors took 1-0 lead in 8th minute, when Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty corner. However, Mumbai went past Delhi 2-1 after their star Florian Fuchs collected a deflected pass and entered the D for a perfect finish. Delhi got the equalizer from another Rupinder Pal Singh penalty corner conversion in 39th minute. In 54th minute, Mumbai went ahead once again, when Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty corner. But Mumbai’s 3-2 lead didn’t last long as Delhi’s Talwinder Singh scored a field goal two minutes later and Delhi won the tie 4-3.
On January 30, Ranchi scored their third successive home win by beating Punjab Warriors 5-4. Punjab were the first to go ahead 2-0, when Armaan Qureshi skillfully dodged two defenders before shooting neatly from close range. Ranchi struck back in second quarter by also scoring a field goal. A few minutes later, Ranchi doubled the lead to 4-2, when Daniel Beale get crashed into the D and sounded the board. In third quarter, Punjab equalized from a rebound opportunity that Satbir Singh capitalized. However, Ranchi scraped through, when Sandeep Singh converted a penalty corner.
In the last IHL match of second week, Dabang Mumbai crashed to their fourth defeat in a row, when Kalinga Lancers inflicted a 6-4 defeat on the hosts on January 31. After a goalless first quarter, Lancers took a 2-0 lead from two back-to-back penalty corners in second quarter. In 33rd minute, Lancers led 4-0, when Lalit Upadhyay scored a brilliant field goal from an inch perfect play by Lancers. Mumbai pulled back two goals, when Florian Fuchs’ efforts paid off in 41st minute. As the fourth quarter started, Mumbai managed to find the equalizer through Gurjant Singh, who crashed on Lancers’ poor defense. But with another field goal coming from Lancers in last quarter, it was curtains for Dabang Mumbai.
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