Bengaluru upsets BPCL; Machaiah propels Army XI to maiden win

Trailing twice at 1-2 and again 2-3 in the second half, Bengaluru was saved by its talismanic player V. R. Raghunath.

In the second match of the day, B.B. Machaiah of Army XI struck the winning goal with a minute remaining for the hooter, thanks to a defensive blunder by Central Secretariat's Vinayak Bijawad.   -  R. Ragu

Bengaluru HA pulled off an improbable 4-3 victory over Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) in a Pool 'A' contest of the 91st MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup All-India hockey tournament here on Sunday.

Earlier, Army XI, struggling to come to terms with an outfit comprising mostly first-timers, salvaged a 2-1 win over Central Secretariat in a Pool 'B' contest, for its first win in three matches.

Trailing twice at 1-2 and again 2-3 in the second half, Bengaluru was saved by its talismanic player V. R. Raghunath. The 28-year-old drag flick specialist, brought the team back into contention with two similar grounders, off two penalty corners in a span of three minutes.

Maintaining the momentum, the young forwardline attacked with gusto which resulted in the winner. Veteran V.S. Vinaya's well-angled scoop from the right side of the goalpost, saw Bijju Yirkal tap it home.

Truth be told, Bengaluru was a much different team today. After the 2-6 drubbing against the defending champion Railways in its opening match, it approached the match with a specific plan.

From the first minute, Bengaluru played as a cohesive unit, making repeated raids into the BPCL camp. However, it was BPCL which opened the account through Imran Khan's strike early in the first session, pretty much dominated by Bengaluru.

For a while in the second half, the battle looked neck and neck as both teams made earnest attempts to score without any result.
 

Rajkumar Pal cashed in on the melee at the goal-mouth to equalise, but the credit for the goal should go to Jenjen Singh who dodged past a defender to send in the cross from the right.

A wonderful run-in by Tushar Khandker from the centre saw Jarnail Singh slotting it home, and BPCL appeared confident of sewing things up. And then, it conceded three penalty corners in five minutes, and Raghunath proved experience counts for something by converting two of them.

It can be argued that Army was a tad lucky to win the tie against Central Secretariat. Machaiah struck firmly with a minute remaining for the hooter, thanks to a defensive blunder by Vinayak Bijawad, who failed to hold the ball thereby giving ample space for the striker.

The results:

Pool 'A': Bengaluru HA 4 (Rajkumar Pal 42, V.R. Raghunath 56 & 61, Bijju Yirkal 63) bt BPCL 3 (Imran Khan 15, Jarnail Singh 51, Anand Rai 57).

Pool 'B': PNB 6 (Gagandeep Singh 9 & 53, Hardeep Singh 10, Gurjinder Singh 16 & 30, Sumit Toppo 54) bt Odisha 2 (Ashish Topno 34, Manip Kerketta 38); Army XI 2 (A.P. Siraju 10, B.B. Machaiah 69) bt Central Secretariat 1 (S. Sivamani 33).