IOCL advanced to the semifinals of the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament at the expense of Army XI with a thrilling 6-3 win on Wednesday. That victory also opened up the gateway for Indian Overseas Bank to make the grade from Pool A.

Air India beat Punjab National Bank 2-1, and Indian Bank scored its first points with a last-gasp 7-6 win over SAIL in Pool B.

IOCL surged ahead with a perfect penalty corner by Raghunath within five minutes of start. Army responded by stepping up the attack. Chaman Aind and Binoy Bhengra struck to give Army a 2-1 lead.

IOCL retaliated with two spectacular goals by Deepak Thakur — the first through a gentle deflection off a free hit, and the other diving forward to connect a long pass from Didar Singh.

The goal by Raghunath from a penalty corner shortly after the break, and those by Roshan Minz and Prabhjot Singh, effectively ended the contest.

Still, Army fought gallantly right into the final quarter exerting relentless pressure but missing a few chances.

IOCL completed its matches with a tally of 12 points (all four victories), and was followed by IOB with nine points in the Pool. Army had to be satisfied with six points.

Despite going up 2-0 in the first half, Air India looked desultory for the major part of the contest. That was in sharp contrast to PNB’s sallies, presided over by Ajitesh, who scored his side’s only goal four minutes from time.

All prompting by Vikram Pillay and Arjun Halappa failed to inspire the Air India attack. What sustained the team was the early goal by Shivendra and then another by Somanna Pradhan late in the first half.

With only six points from three matches, Air India will be hard-pressed to make it to the last four. PNB cannot be written off at this juncture. It has nine points from three victories, and a better goal-aggregate and difference, should they prove decisive.

Indian Bank’s performance in beating SAIL came too late to be of any value apart from minimising the humiliation it suffered in the competition. As in the earlier matches, it was former international V. Raja who shone, netting four goals.

The credit for scoring the match-winner went to Charles, who shot home 55 seconds from the hooter.

Both the teams finished with three points each.

The results: Pool A: IOCL 6 (Raghunath 2, Deepak Thakur 2, Roshan Minz, Prabhjot Singh) bt Army XI 3 ( Chaman Aind 2, Binoy Bhengra).

Pool B: Indian Bank 7 (V. Raja 4, Philip Martin, Umesh, E. Charles) bt SAIL 6 (Rajini Kandulna, Sunil Toppo, David Dung Dung, David Kullu 3).

Air India 2 (Shivendra Singh, Somanna Pradhan) bt PNB 1 (Ajitesh).

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