Ranchi: Ranchi Rhinos proved a bit too hot for Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the first semi-final of the Hockey India League, where two goals each by Mandeep Singh and Nick Wilson gave the hosts a comfortable 4-2 win.
The game, locked 2-2 until the 64th minute, was played at a fast pace and swung like a pendulum until Mandeep and Wilson scored their second respective goals to settle the issue in favour of Ranchi, who play the winners of the second semi-final between Delhi Waveriders and Punjab Warriors in the summit clash on Sunday.
UP were kept in the hunt by Nithin Thimmaiah who too scored a couple of goals but was otherwise let down by his team-mates who couldn't create enough chances to score.
It didn't take long for Ranchi to open their account when a defensive error by UP cost them in the 5th minute. It was a scooped pass inside UP's 25-yard line, which beat UP skipper VR Raghunath and goalkeeper George Bazeley on the bounce. The loose ball then fell in front of Mandeep who just had to tap it inside the open goal.
UP gathered themselves quickly to get the equaliser in the 16th minute. Retired Dutch legend Teun de Nooijer was cramped for room inside the striking circle but somehow managed to pass it to Thimmaiah whose reverse-stick attempt beat Francisco Cortes to make it 1-1.
Both the teams showed some urgency before the half-time hooter to get into the lead but it was Ranchi who succeeded in that effort in the 32nd minute when New Zealander Nick Wilson got his team the second goal, albeit under controversial circumstances. It was debatable whether the ball went into the goal off Wilson's stick or body but since the video replays were inconclusive, the umpire's decision was upheld to make it 2-1 at half-time.
UP Wizards should thank their custodian Bazeley, who single-handedly kept them in the game with at least half a dozen saves in the first half, but the way Ranchi kept on attacking, the death knell wasn't far. But instead, it was UP who scored and once again drew level.
In the second half, UP midfield started feeding their forwards via long balls inside the 25-yard line and one of those attempts worked for them when de Nooijer's deflection thudded into Bazeley's pads but Thimmaiah was there to pounce on the rebound and sound the board in the 54th minute.
But in a last-ditch effort to rattle the opponents, Ranchi raised the tempo which once again put them ahead. Right from the top of the circle in the 64rd minute, Wilson was allowed enough room and time to hammer his reverse hit past Bazeley.
Two minutes later, Mandeep scored the goal of the match to put it beyond UP's reach. Having received the scooped ball on the sidelines at the left flank, the Ranchi striker overlapped his run nicely before just tapping it over Bazeley to score Ranchi's 4th goal and his 10th of the tournament.
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