Eventful in ways more than one, the final day of phase one in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament on Thursday provided a cornucopia of pulsating moments, notwithstanding the sharp showers that interrupted the schedule for over 45 minutes in the contest involving the top guns — IOC and Air India.
Notably, it was the twist to the script that accentuated the suspense when Indian Overseas Bank denied the Army XI a place in the semifinals but helped BPCL to gain that slot from Pool A. IOB won 2-1.
All that the Army team needed was a draw to keep BPCL out of contention. But surprisingly phlegmatic, both in approach work and confronted by a confident goal-keeper Sreejesh, the Army team failed to live up to the expectations.
BPCL, which has a better goal-aggregate and one goal difference against zero by Army, took the second spot in the pool behind ONGC.
By all accounts it was an inspiring performance by the home team which has been subjected to a lot of flak over its poor showing thus far. But on Thursday, IOB looked a transformed side and worked hard to get the moves going and received generous help from goalkeeper Sreejesh.
Needlessly circumspect, the Army defenders allowed IOB to gain the advantage. IOB hoisted the lead after fluent sally that involved Adam Sinclair and Muthanna before Vinod Rayar provided the finishing touches.
IOB hung on to the lead, but enlarged the margin when full-back Rupinderpal Singh struck from a penalty corner.
Down in the dumps with hopes fading away, the Army XI made a desperate bid in the second-half. A goal-mouth scrimmage ended in Sreejesh being penalised for obstruction. John Jasrotia converted.
The quest for another goal intensified but IOB defenders stood their ground well to frustrate the Armymen.
In the needle contest the fortunes fluctuated tantalisingly.
Eventually, IOC trooped out a 3-2 winner, thanks to the deciding goal by Raghunath.
Prabhjot Singh gave IOC the lead after moving in tandem with Deepak Thakur but Vikas Pillay produced a sparkling drive to neutralise.
After the break, Joga Singh hit the target but Roshan Minz levelled for IOC after goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh had brought off two brilliant saves for Air India. Finally, the goal which turned out to be the match-winner came from Raghunath off a penalty corner.