Junior star and defender Diwakar Ram played a stellar role even as Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) handed out a humiliating 5-1 defeat to defending champion Air India in a Pool A encounter of the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Friday.

That all the five goals came in the second half for ONGC after it trailed 0-1 earlier underscores the trend of the contest.

All the combined experience of seasoned stars like Prabhodh Tirkey, Bimal Lakra or V.S. Vinay failed to help Air India to come out with a decent show against the more enterprising, energetic ONGC bunch. Sameer Dad was the only player who showed a semblance of aggression in the Air India frontline.

Inadequate defence

With a woefully inadequate defence struggling to meet the consistency and craft of ONGC, the match suddenly turned out a dead event midway in the second half.

While no praise can be too high for the manner in which Diwakar acquitted himself, the performance of Kamandeep Singh and Jagwant deserves commendation. The equaliser that Kamandeep accomplished early in the second half with a diving deflection from a cross by Mandeep was a peach of an effort.

A penalty corner drive by Diwakar Ram and the clumsy effort by the defence to handle it resulted in a stroke award by Javed Shiekh, disputed though byAir India defenders. Diwakar made no mistake. But from the second penalty corner, Diwakar produced a stunner of a flick that gave goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh no chance.

The 3-1 margin put ONGC in full flow. When Amarjeet struck from a cross by Sandeep Antil, the depression in the Air India defence line was transparent. And then came the last nail when Jagwant slammed in the fifth to hoist a great win for ONGC.

Army XI beats Railways

Flippant finish and failure to make good all chances prevented Army XI recording a more impressive victory over Indian Railways than the 2-1 verdict in Pool a Pool B match. Expectedly, the fitter outfit, which was the Army in this case, had the major say in every aspect of the match and dominated right through.

Pressuring the Railway defence, Army XI swarmed the rival area from the push off thanks to the quick moves carried out by Arumugam and Jerome Khujur. The early lead by Rajesh Kumar pepped the Army attack significantly. True, Railway retaliated with a few raids led by winger Hardeep Singh but they were not punchy enough to make a dent in the Army’s defence.

Crossing over with a 1-0 lead, the Army outfit suffered a reverse when Prem Kumar put the finishing touches to a pass from Bharat early enough to stay in contention. In fact, some of the Railway moves triggered panic at the Army end. Only the timely saves by goalkeeper P.T. Rao managed to save the situation. Midway through however Arumugam punched in the match winner following a penalty corner.

In a lively encounter late in the evening, Indian Oil Corporation, profiting from two impeccable drag flicks by Didar Singh, broke the half-time deadlock of 2-2 to win 6-3 against Mumbai in Pool B. Irshad Mirza figured prominently in the frontline of the losing team although he did not form part of the scorers’ list.

The results:

Army XI 2 (Rajesh Kumar, Arumugam) beat Indian Railways 1 (Rajnesh Pandey).

ONGC 5 (Diwakar Ram 2, Kamandeep Singh, Amarjeet, Jagwant) beat Air India 1 (Sameer Dad).

IOC 6 (Hanza Mujtaba, Didar Singh 2, Deepak Thakur 2, Bikramjit Singh) beat Mumbai 3 (Shashi Toppo, Gursev Singh, Tyron Pereira).

Saturday’s matches: Karnataka v ONGC; Mumbai v Indian Railways; Army v Punjab National Bank.

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