HOST DELHI WAVERIDERS took full advantage of home conditions to break their four-match losing streak with a 7-4 victory over defending champions and table-toppers Ranchi Rays in a Hockey India League (HIL) pool match at the Shivaji Stadium in New Delhi on Thursday.
Braces from Mandeep Singh and Talwinder Singh and some heroics by Kiwi goalkeeper Devon Manchester helped the Waveriders notch up a convincing victory to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
The Waveriders have now climbed a spot in the standings to be placed fifth. They will need to win their last and final league game here on February 17 to have any chance of qualifying for the last four stage.
The Rays, on the other hand, remain on top of the standings despite the loss.
It was a match between the bottom-placed team and the league leaders where the former trumped the defending champions.
Defender Harjeet Singh got into the act in the third minute, but his shot went just wide of the Rays goalpost. The Rays got another scare three minutes later as drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh's attempt was stopped by Tyler Lovell.
But Mandeep finally got Waveriders on the board in the seventh minute by scoring a field goal to give the hosts a 2-0 advantage.
Three minutes later, Simranjeet Singh had a brilliant chance to draw level for the Rays but he found no support in the D with his effort going waste.
Penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh got brilliant back-to-back chances to draw level for the visitors but both his shorts were saved brilliantly by Manchester, who made sure his team remained ahead.
The Waveriders were consistently making in-roads into the Rays' half of the field and their efforts finally bore fruit when Mandeep’s rebound shot during a penalty corner made it 3-0 for the hosts.
Rupinder had another chance of converting but his shot was once again stopped by Lovell but Mandeep intelligently tapped the ball which bounced over the head of the Rays goalkeeper to go in. Soon after, Talwinder made it 5-0 in the 19th minute.
The Rays came out a more organised unit in the second half and it showed immediately as their skipper Ashley Jackson's fantastic reverse flick goal got the visitors on the board to reduce the difference to 2-5.
The Rays piled on the attack on the Waveriders' defenders and goalie Manchester but the latter held strong.
On a counter-attack, Mandeep smartly moved away from the Rays defenders to make it 7-2 with another field goal.
Though Australian Trent Mitton scored his first goal for the Ranchi-based team in the 51st minute, it was a case of too little too late as the hosts held on to their lead for the next 10 minutes to ensure victory.