It’s incredible how much difference one man can make in a team. Ranchi Rhinos lacked balance in their opening two matches of the second edition of Hockey India League, looking slightly unsettled. The defending champions false started, losing their opening game at home to UP Wizards.
The absence of their talismanic midfielder Moritz Fuerste, who was playing the European indoor championships, seemed to have a telling impact on their game. But they have looked a different side ever since the German international returned from the national duty, which is reflected in the points table as well. On Sunday, Fuerste inspired the defending champions to yet another victory, this time a 1-0 win over the battered Mumbai Magicians, to virtually assure themselves of a semifinal spot.
Fuerste has an intimidating presence in the midfield. He has shored up the midfield since his return and controlled the play along with Ashley Jackson. After the Englishman was injured against the Magicians on Sunday, Fuerste teamed up with South African Justin Reid-Ross and dictated play.
The Fuerste-led German team is renowned for its knack of taking early lead in a match and then defend deep. Fuerste seems to have instilled a similar philosophy in the Rhinos set-up as well. All their wins have been of one-goal margin but they have always looked the better side.
On Sunday, too, they seemed comfortable with the 1-0 lead which they took in the 11th minute. Fuerste’s cheeky pass from the touchline found Reid-Ross near the 25-yard line. The unmarked South African sprinted towards the Mumbai goal and found himself with plenty of time and space to unleash a ferocious reverse hit from the top of the ‘D’.
A goal up, Rhinos now looked glad to sit back and defend deep, daring the hosts the take the initiative. However, the Magicians did not possess any quality up front. Glenn Turner, their best player on the pitch, was often isolated and the rest of the Mumbai players lacked imagination.
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