The Punjab Warriors franchise have the advantage of featuring two international captains in India’s Sardar Singh and Australian Mark Knowles for the fourth season of the Hockey India League.
On Tuesday, before the match against defending champions Ranchi Rays, Sardar spent some time with his defenders. Knowles meanwhile spoke to goalie Tristian Clemons. Whatever they spoke seemed to have helped as Punjab Warriors’ began their campaign with a 2-0 win over Rays. Sardar also contributed from the field with by assisting Jake Whetton to score the game’s solitary goal which counts as two under the newly introduced scoring system. The experienced skipper then maneuvering the defense line well to thwart Ranchi’s challenge.
Whetton’s second minute goal came off a counter-attack. Sardar first collected the ball quickly outside the Warriors’ D and made a quick run towards the Ranchi half before giving the pass to Whetton who dodged goalie Lovell Tyler to score.
Despite the win, it was not a smooth ride for the Punjab side which was playing at the newly laid astro turf at Sector 42 Hockey Stadium. The Ranchi team had close to 60 percent ball possession in all the quarters and the fact that Warriors also missed all their penalty corners would also be a cause for concern with Whetton, Chrishtopher Cirello and Gagandeep Rehal missing a chance each.
Some fine sallies in the final quarter by Ranchi Rays forwards Jackson and Trent Mitton meant that the visitors ran close with five shots at goal as compared to seven shots by Warriors in the match but Rays despite 12 circle penetrations could not convert into any goal. “We wanted to score first and we succeeded in doing that. “Yes, we had less of ball possession but our defenders managed to do well against the likes of Ashley Jackson and Manpreet Singh. Ranchi too boosts of a good defense line-up and we knew that from the beginning that it will not be easy to make inroads. After half-time our game plan was to attack more and that also put some pressure on them,” added Sardar.