PNB continues its winning streak

Gurjinder Singh hat-trick leads PNB to victory

Gurjinder Singh celebrates after scoring one of his three goals.   -  M. Vedhan

Punjab National Bank (PNB), riding on Gurjinder Singh’s hat-trick, continued its winning streak with a 5-2 drubbing of ONGC in a Pool ‘B’ match of the 91st MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup All-India hockey tournament here on Tuesday.

Earlier, Hockey Odisha rounded off its engagements with a 3-2 win over Central Secretariat in another Pool ‘B’ tie; but its chances of qualifying for the knock-out (read semifinals) is as good as over.

While PNB has nine points from three games, with a match remaining against a misfiring Army XI, ONGC has six points from three, with a match against a lightweight Central Secretariat. Virtually, PNB and ONGC have made it to the last four.

In a match that looked pretty much equal on paper, PNB proved to a cut above ONGC in terms of strategy and execution. Its forwards were alive to the chances that came their way and the defence played a solid role in intercepting much of ONGC’s crosses from both flanks.

PNB showed its intent early with two well-struck goals in the first half. One was a perfectly hit penalty corner by Gagandeep Singh that sounded the boards, and the other was a brilliant shot by Gurjinder Singh. His diagonal backhander, executed with power and precision, hit the top of the roof.

PNB continued to attack with the same vigour. So did ONGC but a couple of shots from its forwards sailed wide. Diwakar Ram, who has done well so far for his team in corners, failed to strike in the team’s first corner. PNB increased its lead as Gurjinder threw himself to deflect home a cross from the left.

The moment ONGC unsuccessfully completed its second corner, PNB unleashed a quick counter-attack resulting in the fourth goal by Gagandeep Singh.

To its credit, ONGC never gave up, pushing hard from both flanks. It did pay dividends as it gained two corners in two minutes. They were converted by Mithilesh and Diwakar respectively. ONGC gained another corner immediately but goalkeeper Jasbir Singh came up with a good save, using his hand to put away an aerial shot.

Gurjinder duly completed his hat-trick at the hooter by tapping in a fierce cross by Gagandeep Singh.

The results: Pool ‘B’: PNB 5 (Gagandeep Singh 12, Gurjinder Singh 17, 25 & 70, Gagandeep Singh 35) bt ONGC 2 (Mithilesh 54, Diwakar Ram 56); Hockey Odisha 3 (Sanjay Xalxo 10, Sudhir Kujur 22 & 32) bt Central Secretariat 2 (Shanmugam 25, S. Sivamani 67).