The focus shifted to spotting the semifinalists in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament, even as the Army XI and IOB notched up wins on Monday in Pool A.

While the Army XI struggled — the 4-1 margin may not mirror this fact — against South Central Railway, IOB had it easy against CAG, winning 6-1 to finish its pool engagements with nine points.

It is quite likely that three teams — IOC, IOB and Army XI — may fight it out for the two slots from Pool A.

Until the last quarter of the second half, Army was hardly assured of full points from this encounter. The SCR defenders, including goal-keeper Srinivas exhibited admirable resilience.

Even on the frontline, there were a couple of dangerous movements by Poonacha. A splendid deflection by Mayank James from a long pass brought SCR on par, with a fighting chance to force a draw or even a win.

The one man who scuttled SCR’s hopes was former international Ignace Tirkey. His best years are behind him. Yet, there was elegance and efficiency in his workouts, and that proved decisive. Not only did he score twice in a penalty corner sequence, he was also the tower of strength in the mid-field. His passes were aesthetically pleasing and decidedly astute, keeping forwards Bopanna and Bushan Kujur on the move.

Had SCR maintained the tempo after James’s goal the script could have been different. However, Shyam Kumar fumbled in front of the goal, and a couple crosses went awry. After Tirkey slotted home the second goal, the Army team took control and never let relinquinshed it till the final whistle.

Army XI has a key match against the leader of the Pool A, IOC, on Wednesday.

IOB required a big victory to enhance its goal aggregate. But CAG yielded no quarter.

The start was electrifying with Adam Sinclair bringing up the lead with a stinging shot. Midway through, Vinod Rayar widened the margin, and IOB managed to add four more in the second half while conceding one.

The results: Pool A: Army XI 4 (Ignace Tirkey-2, C.U. Bopanna, Euazer Lakra) bt South Central Railway 1 (Mayank James). IOB 6 (Adam Sinclair, Vinod Rayar 2, Shanmugam, Muthuselvan-2) bt CAG 1(Navneet Swarankar).

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