Debutants Ranchi Rays kept their nerves and defeated Uttar Pradesh Wizards in a lengthy penalty shoot-out to book their place in the final of the third Hero Hockey India League after both teams were locked at 1-1 at the end of regulation time of the first semi-final today.
Dragflicker V R Raghunath (34th minute) gave Wizards the lead from a penalty corner before skipper Ashley Jackson (41st) levelled the scores for Ranchi by converting a penalty stroke.
After both the teams failed to find the winner in the remaining 19 minutes, the match went into shoot-out where the Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni co-owned Ranchi Rays eked out a thrilling 9-8 win.
The Rays were guilty of taking the match that far as they earned as many as seven penalty corners in the regulation 60 minutes, but failed to convert a single one.
The Wizards, on the other hand, made use of one off their two short corners through Raghunath’s fierce flick in the 34th minute.
After a barren first quarter, the Rays secured four penalty corners in quick succession, but Wizards goalkeeper P R Sreejesh was upto the task to deny the debutant outfit as both the teams failed to score at the halfway mark.
Four minutes after the change of ends, Wizards broke the deadlock when Raghunath scored with a powerful, high flick from his team’s first penalty corner.
But Wizards’ lead was shortlived as Jackson drew parity seven minutes later from the spot.
The Wizards got another penalty corner soon but this time Ranchi custodian Lovell Tyler came up with a fine save.
With little over a minute left for the final hooter, the Ranchi Rays got a golden chance to score the winner when they secured three penalty corners in succession but failed to utilise the opportunities, taking the match into shoot-out.