It was once again a day devoted to spotting the semifinalists in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Wednesday.

Reigning champion ONGC picked up the berth from Pool A after a surprisingly authoritative victory over BPCL.

The 5-2 margin testifies to the dominance of the ONGC squad for which penalty-corner hitter Diwakar Ram and Mandeep Antil were outstanding. ONGC finished the programme with eight points.

Slim chance

BPCL ended with five points which leaves it with a slim chance. This will be possible only if Army XI, which obtained its first win in three matches, thanks to the match-winner by Sunil Ekka in the final minute against PNB, goes down to IOB in the last match on Thursday.

Army also has five points, but with a match remaining and IOB has one point from three matches.

The early lead that ONGC secured from an indirect penalty corner by Mandeep Antil in the second minute set the tempo for an interesting contest. BPCL came across a plethora of chances but frittered them away.

True, it was unlucky too. A penalty corner shot William Xalco hit against the goal post. Tushar also had the mortification of seeing his powerful hit crash against the post and curl into play.

Following this, Pundalik Bellary, usually an accurate striker, fumbled with a sitter late in the first half.

ONGC led 2-0 — both goals were scored by Mandeep Antil — at half-time and resumed with renewed confidence when Diwakar Ram produced an impeccable penalty corner shot.

BPCL gained brief ascendancy and Bellary struck to revive some hopes. But Diwakar’s second hit followed by Gagandeep’s fluent shot into the boards left the issue beyond doubt. However, in the closing minutes, Jarnail Singh netted the second for BPCL.

Sunil Ekka’s strike three minutes from the hooter gave a lease of life for Army XI which trailed 0-1 early in the match. Ekka’s opportunism brought the first win for the team in three matches.

Air India joined IOC in the semifinals from Pool B after encountering some resistance from All India Customs and Excise. Both Air India and IOC have nine points each. Which of the two teams tops the pool will be known on Thursday when they meet.

The results:

Army XI 3 (Elizear Lakra, Sunil Ekka 2) bt Punjab National Bank 2 (Lakhwinder Singh, Ajitesh Roy).

ONGC 5 (Mandeep Antil 2, Diwakar Ram 2, Gagandeep Singh) bt BPCL 2 (Pundalik Bellary, Jarnail Singh).

Air India 5 (Own goal, Birendra Lakra 2, Somanna Pradhan, Joga Singh) bt All India Customs 2 (Navin Kumar, Karun Baskaran).


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