Attention was riveted on identifying the qualifiers in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament as another set of matches slipped into the record books at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Tuesday.
Former champion IOC, which won 5-3 against Indian Railways, ensured a place in the last four from Pool B with nine points. Its qualification was more to do with the efforts of its goal-keeper Devesh Chauhan than Raghunath’s fiery drives and Deepak Thakur’s opportunism.
Devesh’s experience and intrepid approach came in handy for IOC, especially in the first half during which Railways forced as many as four penalty corners.
Railways’ incisive play, though, does not reflect in the margin. Almost throughout the first half and to a large extent in the second, the Railway frontline carried enough punch to unsettle IOC’s defenders.
Chingleng Sana was excellent and exquisite in his sallies for Railways. More than once, the diminutive forward showed a clean pair of heels to the defenders. Equally energetic and efficient were Sanjay Bir Singh and defender Victo Singh.
Railways’ defence was well manned by Manjeet Kullu and Innocent Kullu who kept the renowned rival forward line consisting of Deepak Thakur, Roshan Minz, Prabhjot Singh and Uthappa at bay.
Feeding them with clever and consistent passes was the masked mid-fielder Inderjit Chadda.
The lead for IOC came when the game spilled out of half-time from a penalty corner. Raghunath slotted it and followed it up with another in the early minutes of the second half.
The two goals definitely disheartened the Railway defenders who began to falter quickly.
Deepak Thakur widened the lead after Sana had reduced the margin. He netted another one to inject an element of glow to the score-line.
The Railway outfit was relentless in its quest for the goal and B. Horo lent some hopes of a fight-back midway through.
With five minutes remaining Nitin Kumar sent a wave of panic in the IOC defence reducing the lead to just one goal but Deepak Thakur managed to restore some pride by enlarging the margin by two goals, three minutes from end.
Railway might have lost but won many a heart.
Karun Baskaran, son of Olympian and former India captain V. Baskaran, played a stellar role in hoisting its first win in three matches for All India Customs against ICF in Pool B.
It was a prosaic encounter where the exchanges were desultory for the major part.
The local outfit, ICF turned in another pathetic display of ineptness both in attack and defence. Till a few minutes before the final whistle, ICF trailed 0-6 but prevented the utter rout by netting two goals to constrict the margin.
The fact that ICF has scored just six goals in three matches and given away 28, underlines the chasm that divides the local outfits from established institutions outside the state. ICF has a match remaining against Indian Railways, while Customs awaits Air India.
The results: All India Customs 6 (Karun Baskaran 3, Abishek Kumar Singh, Jayesh Jadhav, Nikkin Thimmiah) beat ICF 2 (Gunasekaran, Shyam Kumar).
IOC 5 (Raghunath 2, Deepak Thakur 3) beat Indian Railways 3 (Chingleng Sana, B. Horo, Nitin Kumar).
Keywords: MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup