Neither of the matches in the semifinals touched the hearts of aficionados in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Saturday.
That they did not spill into extra-time and tie-breaker was a blessing.
Prosaic, ponderous and pitifully lacking in fervour and flavour, the matches, apart from projecting the finalists — IOC and Air India — produced precious little in terms of proficiency.
Even assuming the not-so-ideal underfoot conditions on the ageing turf were a dampener to go in full throttle, the semifinals — featuring the nucleus of the national team — proved disappointing.
It is hoped that at least the final on Sunday will match the occasion and the expectations of the goodly crowd that turns up almost every day.
IOC palpably struggled to get the measure of the BPCL defenders, until Mujitaba Hamsa saw the ball rolling off his stick into the goal from a free hit by Vikas Sharma. It was a case of accident rather than design.
BPCL sparkled for a few minutes early in the contest thanks to the sinuous runs by Ravipal Singh, but they were insufficient in galvanizing the attack led by Olympian Tushar Khandkar.
IOC widened the margin late in the first half when Thimmanna gave the finishing touches as the ball rolled over to him from Didar Singh.
Early in the second half, Tushar Khandkar infused some life into the proceedings, making capital off a cross by Amir Khan.
An expected intensity thereafter was belied after BPCL players staged a brief walk-out protesting the goal by Deepak Thakur off a cross from a free hit by Vikas Sharma.
After a brief intervention by the Tournament Director, Md. Muneer, the players were mollified.
In the closing minutes, Raghunath converted a penalty corner, only to see Hariprasad reduce the margin at the other end followed by William Xalco after the regulation time.
It is difficult to showcase the other contest which Air India won 1-0, in a capsule of adulation. If anything, Air India was only marginally better when compared to the patterns woven by the ONGC frontline.
The forwards on both the teams were laborious, frustrating the good work of the mid-fielders.
Initially, the advantage lay with ONGC with Gurivinder Singh Chandi repeatedly surging forward.
The Air India defenders headed by Prabodh Tirkey and Vikas Pillay beat off the challenge with a touch of equanimity.
The Air India attack was neither systematic nor sparkling, contributing largely to the slow pace of the contest all through. Some fizz surfaced when Halappa and Shivendra joined the fray.
With Vikram Pillay playing a stellar role in the midfield as the crafty creator setting up measured passes, the pressure on the ONGC defenders was clear.
The all-important goal by Joga Singh emerged midway through the second half. Somanna Pradhan charted the course for it with a loping run down the line. His accurate cross was tapped neatly by Halappa, who placed it well for Joga Singh to finish.
In the closing minutes, Air India had another chance that almost ended in a goal. A lovely pass by Vikram Pillay opened the whole area for Samir Dad, but the latter’s drive was smartly stopped by goal-keeper Dinesh Ekka.
Doordarshan (sports) will telecast the final live on Sunday.
The results: Semifinals:
Air India 1 (Joga Singh) bt ONGC 0.
IOC 4 (Mujitaba Hamza, Thimmanna, Deepak Thakur, Raghunath) bt BPCL 3 (Tushar Khandkar, Hariprasad, William Xalco).
Keywords: MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament