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BPCL, Army XI make Muruguppa final


Chennai: Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) survived a late challenge from Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC) for a 4-3 win en route to the final of the 85th All-India MCC-Murugappa hockey tournament here Saturday.

In Sunday’s final, BPCL, for whom Jarnail Singh (15th), Amar Aiyamma (34th), Gurpeet Singh (42nd) and Pundalik Bellary (57th) scored, will take on Army XI who got past Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) by an aggregate 5-4 margin via the sudden-death after the teams tied 1-1 at the end of the regulation period and 15 minutes of extra-time.

IOC fought for all they were worth after being down 0-3 past the 42nd minute and scored through Deepak Thakur (47th, 65th) and Kamlesh Parihar (50th) before running out of time.

BPCL took a while to settle down as IOC initially dictated terms. However, the tide turned once the BPCL forwards got into a rhythm as Jarnail Singh, put through by Sher Singh, let rip from the left to the roof of the net for the first goal.

Under increasing pressure, the IOC defence slipped again, allowing former World Cupper Sabu Varkey to find Aiyamma inside the circle to cap a fine move.

The match all but ended as a contest when Gurpreet Singh converted a penalty corner in the 42nd minute. However, BPCL committed the cardinal sin of becoming complacent and this allowed IOC to surge back into contention.

Two quick goals by Thakur and Parihar, both scoring from hectic goalmouth scrambles, saw IOC on a charge, but so intent were they on the attack that they left the back open. BPCL went on a counter attack on the left and Varkey crossed into the circle where Bellary was left unmarked to score.

The fourth goal provided a valuable cushion for BPCL as IOC reduced the leeway on a Thakur goal five minutes from the close following a long hit from the centre-line.

In the final moments, BPCL expectedly kept possession to deny IOC further success to qualify for the final.

Earlier, Army XI went through the gamut of extra-time, tie-breaker and sudden-death when they could have wrapped up the game during the regulation period itself.

They dominated much of the game, but their forwards were found wanting in the striking zone. So poor were their attempts that it would have embarrassed even schoolboys.

The only time they got it right after some half-a-dozen misses was when Mundu pounced on a rebound to score after goalkeeper Kamaldeep Singh had blocked Ignace Tirkey’s try following a diagonal move initiated by Rajesh Lakra in the 26th minute.

At the other end, ONGC got into the act after the equaliser when Mandeep Singh found the net after picking up a rebound from a penalty corner that was awarded seconds before the half-time buzzer.

With neither side able to convert their chances, despite 15 minutes of extra-time, the tie-breaker seemed inevitable.

In the shootout, Rajesh Lakra, Ignace Tirkey and Varun Kumar converted for Army XI while Diwakar Ram, Harpal Singh and Karamjeet Singh came good for ONGC as the teams finished deadlocked 3-3 (aggregate 4-4).

Came the sudden-death and Diwakar Ram, taking first strike, pushed wide and Rajesh Lakra flicked home for the match-winner.