Karnataka secured a nail-biting draw against Tamil Nadu to win the South Zone Senior men's hockey championship at the KSHA stadium here on Friday. In what was the concluding league fixture — and a virtual final — Karnataka withstood tough, late pressure to snatch a 2-2 draw and thus the title on goal difference.

The goalkeeper Jagdeep Dayal (man of the tournament) played a huge role in the outcome, effecting a string of fine saves towards the end.

Adam Sinclair's brace for Tamil Nadu went in vain. The host finished on a goal difference of 41 to the visitor's 20.

The victory sent Karnataka into the IHF Senior National hockey championship.

Both teams had begun cautiously but it was Tamil Nadu that opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Vinod Rayer played veteran Sinclair in with a wonderful pass; the latter finished expertly past the goalkeeper.

Almost immediately from the restart Karnataka earned a penalty corner at the other end; D.S. Darshan's shot snuck in thanks to some weak blocking on the line. Tamil Nadu perhaps sat a little too deep, allowing the opponent generous space in the middle of the pitch.

G.M. Hariprasad, captain of the home side, thrived on the freedom, creating several opportunities. The pressure eventually told; B.Y. Bijju squared the ball after a run down the right and an unmarked Hariprasad slotted it in at the far post.

Tamil Nadu created chances on the counter-attack but they came to nothing.

In the second half, Sinclair dropped deeper, starting his runs from midfield, as his side sought to press harder. The equaliser came 14 minutes in, when the 28-year-old controlled a ball from the by-line before firing it into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.

Rattled, Karnataka raised the tempo, but the opponent responded with equal aggression. As the clock ticked down, the action only got more frenetic. The host spurned three penalty corners while in the last five minutes, and TN's M.K. Mudappa and V. Raja drew close-range saves from Dayal. The 'keeper somehow held on, and Karnataka triumphed.

The results: Puducherry 4 (Delhi Ganesh 2, M. Harikrishnan 2) bt Kerala 0; Hyderabad 4 (Md. Azhar Ullah Khan 2, M. Nagaraj, Md. Abdul Aleem) bt Andhra Pradesh 0; Karnataka 2 (D.S. Darshan, G.M. Hari Prasad) drew with Tamil Nadu 2 (Adam Sinclair 2).

Other prizes: Most impressive player of the tournament: Kamala Kannan (Puducherry);

Highest goal-scorer: Md. Naeemuddin (Karnataka, 14 goals); Player of the tournament: Jagdeep Dayal (Karnataka).

Keywords: hockey

More In: Hockey | Sport