Debutants Ranchi Rays produced an inspired performance and twice came back from a goal down to beat favourites Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the shoot-out and emerge champions of the third Hero Hockey India League at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here today.
India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni co-owned Ranchi Rays fought hard to eke out a 3-2 win in the shoot-out after both the teams were locked at 2-2 in the regulation time of the thrilling summit clash.
Kieran Govers (39th minute) and Christopher Ciriello (56th) scored the goals for Punjab Warriors while Stanli Minz (42nd) and Barry Middleton (57th) were the goal getters for Ranchi Rays in the regulation period.
Last year’s champions Delhi Waveriders finished third after beating Uttar Pradesh Wizards 2-1 in the third-fourth place play-off match earlier in the day.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Indian Olympic Association Secretary General Rajiv Mehta were in attendance at the stadium today.
The summit clash witnessed exciting first two quarters with both the teams playing free-flowing hockey.
The Punjab Warriors might have entered the final as favourites going by their form this season, but it was Ranchi Rays which looked more threatening to score goals at least in the opening 30 minutes.
The Rays enjoyed the better share of ball possession in the opening two quarters and created some good moves but failed to convert them into goals.
In the absence of experienced Jamie Dwyer, who missed the match with an injury, the Punjab Warriors’ forwardline lacked creativity, which was quite clearly evident in their performance in the opening half.
Even though it was action-packed first half, both the teams failed to garner a single penalty corner.
The match livened up after the change of ends and finally the crowd could see the first penalty corner of the match in the 34th minute which went in favour of Punjab Warriors, but Sandeep Singh’s high flick was gloved away by Lovell Tyler in front of Ranchi goal.