Murugappa Cup: IOC, Indian Railways qualify for semis

Defending champion IOC and Indian Railways have confirmed their semifinal berths after easy wins. Army XI, after today's win over PSB, needs a draw to join the other two teams in the semifinal.

Deepak Thakur (left) of IOC and Roshan Keisham of Mumbai Hockey Association battle for possession.   -  R. Ragu

Army XI scripted a crucial 3-2 victory over Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) in a Pool B match of the 90th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Wednesday.

Later, Indian Railways, the national champion, ensured its passage into the semifinals with an 8-2 win over Karnataka in another Pool B tie.

The second team from the same group (to enter the last four) will be determined after the match between Army and ONGC on Thursday.

Meanwhile, defending champion Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) outwitted Mumbai HA 5-2 in a Pool A contest to enter the knock-out phase.

After eking out a win over PSB, Army will go into its last group match against ONGC knowing pretty well that a draw is sufficient for it to qualify for the last four while ONGC will have to go for a win to entertain any semifinal hopes.

Army has been inconsistent in its group matches so far. Be it the 2-1 triumph over Karnataka, or the 1-2 loss to Indian Railways, Army, a former champion, has failed to raise its level. And it has to realise that ONGC is not a neophyte.

S. Arumugam scored the opening goal for Army from the right, an angle from which the ‘keeper Guriqbal Singh thought he had covered all ends up, but the forward unleashed a drive that gave the custodian little chance.

Army continued to exercise a upper hand for most of the first half with Poovanna and Siraju troubling the PSB ‘keeper.

However, PSB came back strongly as Gaganpreet Singh equalled the scores with a successful penalty corner.

Army ‘keeper Arpit Choudhary effected a couple of very good saves even as forward Ramandeep Singh (PSB) kept prowling near the goal-line dangerously. The Rio Olympian finally found the target by firing a backhander after receiving a pass from Jaskaran Singh.

Army forced the pace and earned three penalty corners, but could convert none. It was forward Binoy Bhengara who levelled the scores (2-2) with a shot off a rebound of the ‘keeper’s pads.

Three minutes remaining for the hooter, Siraju scored the match-winner with a deft placement off a fierce shot by Bhengara from the right.

While IOC has qualified, the match between Tamil Nadu (four points from three matches) and BPCL (seven from three) will determine who the second team from Pool-A will be.

Tamil Nadu, a raw team, will have to defeat BPCL, with three Rio Olympians, by a margin of more than five goals to enter the last four.

The results:

Pool-A: IOC 5 (Vikas 22, Deepak Thakur 29, Roshan Minz 32, Vikas Sharma 34, V.R. Raghunath 47) bt Mumbai 2 (Nizamuddin Mohd. 38, Jugraj Singh 44).

Pool-B: Army XI 3 (S. Arumugam 16, Binoy Bhengara 58, A.P. Siraju 67) bt PSB 2 (Gaganpreet Singh 36, Ramandeep Singh 47).

Indian Railways 8 (Affan Yousuf 12 & 25, Jasjit Singh 17, Amit Rohidas 44, Malak Singh 52 & 55, Karanpal Singh 61, Gurpreet Singh 68) bt Karnataka 2 (M.G. Poonacha 29, Prithivi Raj 69).