Veteran English playmaker Barry Middleton's brace inspired Ranchi Rays to a 2-1 victory over Dabang Mumbai in a Hero Hockey India League (HIL) match at the MHA-Mahindra Hockey Stadium on Saturday.
Ranchi Rays' Barry Middleton (no 18) celebrates a goal against Dabang Mumbai with his teammates at the MHA-Mahindra stadium on Saturday. Pic/Atul Kamble
Opening blues vanished
The 31-year-old Middleton scored two field goals (38th, 45th) in the third quarter to help Rays bounce back from their 3-6 opening match loss. For Mumbai, the costliest player of the league Belgian Tom Boon scored the solitary goal in the 38th minute.
Both the teams wasted penalty corners in the first quarter with Rays' seasoned South African Justin Reid-Ross and Mumbai's Harmanpreet Singh failing to make them count.
In the second quarter, another Englishman Ashley Jackson-led Rays played with much more purpose and organisation.
Middleton earned the visitors a penalty corner but Birender Lakra failed to stop a Manpreet Singh push in the 30th minute, wasting a great chance. Both teams completed the first half without goals.
However, as soon as the third quarter began both the teams improved their game.
Eight minutes into the second half, Boon was fed by Nick Catlin on the top of the circle and the Belgian fired a flat hit to make it 1-0 for the hosts.
A few seconds later, New Zealander forward Nick Wilson did the hard work and passed it on to Middleton as he ran out of space. Middleton took a turn and beat Irish goalkeeper David Harte to equalise 1-1.
Middleton made it 2-1 in the 45th minute as Mandeep Singh supplied him in front of the goal and employed an energetic reverse-hand strike which easily defeated Harte.
Mumbai pressed hard for the equaliser but a tight defence by the visitors saw them lose the match.