Two drawn games with identical margins on a grey evening under incessant drizzle accentuated the sombre atmosphere in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament on Monday.
The second successive draw in as many days has raised doubts about Army XI’s chances of making the grade from Pool A.
In the other contest, IOB, the local outfit secured its first point in three matches after sharing two goals with Punjab National Bank.
Army’s tormentor on Monday was none other than the reigning champion, ONGC, which is no better placed in the zone.
Army XI has two matches left while ONGC’s tally is five from three games.
Army’s combined thrusts, engineered largely by skipper Elizear Lakra displayed the punch. But finish was its curse.
The trio of Arumugam, Muthanna and Sunil Ekka repeatedly cut through taking full advantage of the through passes provided by Varun Kumar and the long hits by Rinel Singh.
Rain, 11 minutes after the start, interrupted play for around 20 minutes before the match was resumed. Army forged ahead not long after resumption following a penalty corner. Lakra’s flick was directed into the boards by Siraj.
The ONGC defenders deserve praises for the verdict. Apart from goal-keeper Dinesh Ekka, full back Harpal Singh, the captain, were prominent in their work. Gagandeep Singh and Lalit Upadyaya gave enough vigour to the attack as did the hits by Diwakar Ram.
In fact, early in the match Diwakar produced a perfect shot only to see goalkeeper P. T. Rao come up with an equally effortless save.
ONGC achieved parity after the break. Army’s defence, somewhat incomprehensibly, let the guard down for a moment. That was enough for Gagandeep Singh to seize the chance and slot the equaliser.
For all the action on both ends, IOB and PNB could score only one goal each after a goalless draw.
It was heartening to see IOB shrugging off the lethargy to go in for the attack though not consistently.
Both Adam Sinclair and Vinod Rayar contributed a great deal of effort in to this.
Shortly after the barren first half, Rupinder Singh produced a whiplash of a shot from a penalty corner to increase the lead.
This, however, was short-lived as Bengali Xess procured the equaliser with a weak shot.
Strangely, Olympian Sreejesh who had earlier brought off a handful saves amidst vociferous cheers was flummoxed by Xess’s feeble push from the top of the circle.
The results: Army XI 1 (Siraj) drew with ONGC 1 (Gagandeep Singh).
Indian Overseas Bank 1 (Rupinderpal Singh) drew with Punjab National Bank 1 (Bengali Xess).
Keywords: MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup