Murugappa Cup: Tamil Nadu and Karnataka impress

Tamil Nadu held Air India, a favourite with five former India stars in the starting eleven, to a 2-2 draw in a Pool-A tie. On the other hand, the Karnataka lads displayed spunk and character to beat Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) 2-1 in Pool-B.

Hassan Basha and Joshua Bendici scored the goals for Tamil Nadu.   -  R. Ragu

Tamil Nadu and Karnataka produced spirited performances in their respective groups to liven up the proceedings on the opening day of the 90th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Thursday.

Tamil Nadu held Air India, a favourite with five former India stars in the starting eleven, to a 2-2 draw in a Pool-A tie. On the other hand, the Karnataka lads displayed spunk and character to beat Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) 2-1 in Pool-B.

Though it was a creditable performance from the host, it has a long way to go to beat the top sides. The average age of the team is 24 years and none of them is a National-level player. But on the day, the boys were up for the challenge.

In a first half which was evenly matched, it was TN which opened the account through Joshua Bendici Wesley, who pushed slotted one home. Osaf-ur-Rehman, then, fired a blistering forehander off a pass from Maninderjeet Singh to equalize for Air India.

Tamil Nadu forwards were quick and attacked relentlessly, but couldn’t convert several half-chances including a few penalty corner conversions.

Air India came close to scoring midway in the second half. Gagandeep Singh’s strike off a corner was deflected by Aravind at the goal-line. TN took the lead in the 56th minute after Aravind’s strike off a penalty corner was padded away the ‘keeper Adrian D’Souza only to find Hassan Basha, who flicked it home. Few minutes later, Air India scored thereby dousing TN’s hopes of a victory after Gagandeep Singh struck off a penalty corner into the top of the roof.

Karnataka’s forwards and midfield worked in near-perfect unison giving jitters to a seasoned PSB. Captain Nitin Thimmiah, India International, was the fulcrum of the team, marshalling the midfield.

Pradhan Sommanna converted a corner with a perfectly-hit grounder in the 21st minute and from then on Karnataka completely dominated the show. Defence held strong even though Sarvanjit Singh and Ramandeep Singh tried their best to unsettle it. Leading by a goal at half-time was proof enough of Karnataka’s domination.

Satbir Singh got a gem of chance in the second half when he sidestepped a defender and with only the ‘keeper in front, the forward slipped and fell. However, after the equaliser from Sarvanjit Singh, PSB looked a different side as it attacked from both wings. It was Karnataka ‘keeper Jagdeep Dayal who stopped the forwards in their attacks. He was remarkable under the bar coming up with some amazing saves — the best when he fisted away a powerful backhander by Sukjeet Singh.

Karnataka, however, shut the door on PSB when Nithin worked his way from the left and placed a backhander nicely into the other side with the ‘keeper Guriqbal Singh watching helplessly.

The results:

Pool-A: Hockey Unit of TN 2 (Joshua Bendici Wesley 17th, Hassan Basha 56th) drew with Air India 2 (Osaf-Ur-Rehman 30th, Gagandeep Singh 58th).

Pool-B: Karnataka 2 (Pradhan Sommanna 21st, Nitin Thimmiah 66th) bt Punjab & Sind Bank 1 (Sarvanjit Singh 52nd).