Murugappa Cup: ONGC edges out Army; enters semis

Requiring a victory to qualify for the semifinals of the Murugappa Cup hockey tournament, Bikash Toppo struck a penalty corner for ONGC at the death for a 3-2 win over Army

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ONGC celebrates its match-winning goal over Army XI.   -  R. Ragu

The action intensified in the last few minutes of the Pool-B match between Army XI and ONGC in the 90th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Thursday.

Requiring a victory to qualify for the semifinals, Bikash Toppo struck a penalty corner for ONGC at the death for a 3-2 win over Army.

Earlier, in a Pool-A contest, BPCL edged out Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu 2-1.

Though BPCL and IOC were at 10 points and had a goal difference of eight, IOC emerged the pool-topper based on the number of goals scored (it had a score of 16 while BPCL had only 11).

Trailing 1-2 with about three minutes to go, Army—needing at least a draw to qualify—replaced Arpit Chowdary with Jonny Jasrotia as its 'keeper.

And it paid dividends as A. P. Siraju converted a penalty corner by connecting one into the top of the roof. The next moment, Jonny went out and the ‘keeper Arpit returned.

During the dying minutes, ONGC’s counter-attack saw Manu Machmaiam make a wonderful run from the right. And his push struck the leg of a defender, and a penalty corner was awarded.

For a second, everyone thought ONGC had made a mess of its last chance when Harpal Singh couldn’t connect his drag flick properly. And as the ball travelled to Bikash, who was stationed to the right of the ‘keeper, pushed it home, there were celebrations from the ONGC camp.

Tamil Nadu did well to hold BPCL in a goalless first half even as the former created quite a few chances.

In fact, it was the host, which dominated the first session with its forwards raiding the BPCL citadel at will and as a result missing at least three clear goal-scoring chances.

Tamil Nadu conceded a soft goal in the 46th minute when a shot by Devinder Walmiki went through the legs of custodian Arun Prasad. Devinder’s shot didn’t have the requisite power. It was an egregious error on the part of Arun. Though Hassan Basha equalised with a deflection, BPCL scored the match-winner when a pass from the left by Tushar Khandekar saw Amir Khan flicking it home.

In the semifinals on Saturday, Army will face IOC while BPCL will lock horns with Indian Railways.

The results:

Pool-A: BPCL 2 (Devinder Walmiki 46, Amir Khan 68) bt Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu 1 (Hassan Basha 64).

Pool-B: ONGC 3 (Manu Machmaiam 9, Diwaker Ram 44, Bikash Toppo 70) bt Army XI 2 (Ansham Hemrom 53, A.P. Siraju 67).