MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup: Hockey Odisha earns creditable draw

BPCL huffs and puffs to a 2-0 win over Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu.

Kawaljit Singh of BPCL (yellow jersey) and P. Nambi Ganesh of HUTN in action on Thursday.   -  R. Ragu

It was a day when the favourites faced stiff resistance from underdogs in the 91st MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup All-India hockey tournament at the SDAT-Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Thursday.

After BPCL huffed and puffed to a 2-0 win over Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu (HUTN) in a Pool 'A' tie, Hockey Odisha, comprising a bunch of boys whose average age is 18, punched way above its weight to pull off a 4-4 draw against a formidable Army XI team in a Pool 'B' match.

Trailing 3-0 at one point of time and being completely dominated by Army XI, Odisha rallied in splendid fashion exemplified by wonderful team effort. Cyril Lugun scored Odisha's first goal with a thundering backhander in the 42nd minute, and the score was 1-3. Only a romantic would have expected the newbie to script a fightback, but it did it in grand fashion.

In a wonderful combination with Rakesh Tete, Sanjay Xalxo befuddled the Army's defence to push one home. Soon, holding a wonderful pass on the right, Amit Chirmako's strike ricocheted through the legs of the 'keeper Arpit Chowdhary, and the score read 3-3.

With 10 minutes remaining for the hooter, Army inched ahead through a sliding goal from Machaiah. However, Odisha didn't buckle under pressure as it scored the team's fourth goal with a push from Sibren Lakra, who was alert to the rebound off the 'keeper's pads in a penalty corner move.

With three Olympians in Tushar Khandker, William Xalxo and Devindar Walmiki, BPCL couldn't stitch one good move in the first half. Its defenders were busy staving off raids by a team which had mostly youngsters. However, BPCL and HUTN made the contest a bit interesting with interesting runs on either flanks in the second session.

BPCL opened the scoring thanks to Kawaljit Singh's deflection off a riveting shot from Sahir Mohd. from the right. In the meantime, TN did defend well and its forwards had their chances. Hariharan's pass from the left saw no takers in the 19th minute and later Veera Thamizhan could have scored a goal, but his shot was weak and it went over the post. BPCL settled the issue through Sher Singh.

The results

Pool 'A': BPCL 2 (Kawaljit Singh 53, Sher Singh 70) bt HUTN 0;

Pool 'B': Army XI 4 (A. P. Siraju 19, Binay Bhengra 29, Anselm Hemrom 32, B. B. Machaiah 60) drew with Hockey Odisha 4 (Cyril Lugun 42, Sanjay Xalxo 45, Amit Chirmako 56, Sibren Lakra 66).

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