Punjab National Bank and BPCL completed the semifinal line-up from Pool B in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament on Thursday.

The convincing 3-1 victory over Air India in a key Pool B contest brought BPCL on par with PNB at nine points each. With a goal difference of plus nine, PNB toppe of the pool against the plus eight by BPCL.

The failure of Air India, last year’s joint winner with IOC, to be in the last four came as rude shock to its supporters. Composed of players past their prime in international competitions, the Air India outfit struggled to display its wonted authority.

Even a draw would have put Air India into contention for the semifinal berth.

Building up pressure

BPCL clung on to the early goal by Pundalik Bellary. Air India did build up pressure on the rival defenders but they stood their ground.

Vikram Pillay, supported well by Arjun Halappa, provided quite a few openings but the forwards, notably Shivendra and Lalit Upadhyaya, fumbled.

In the BPCL defence line Ajay Saroha and Birendra Lakra were notable in their in interceptions as was the gangling Prabhdeep Singh.

BPCL played with renewed vigour in the second half forcing the Air India defenders to make errors.

Gurpreet Singh converted a fluent penalty corner followed by a goal by Bellary.

A self goal by BPCL was hardly a consolation for Air India.

Friday is a rest day.

The semifinal line-up: IOC vs BPCL; IOB vs PNB.

The results:

Pool A: CAG 5 (Navneet Swarankar, Nithin Thimmiah, Md. Naemuddin 2, S.S. Bundela) bt SCR 2 (Mayank James, Dhamu).

Pool B: BPCL 3 (Pundalik Bellary 2, Gurpreet Singh) bt Air India 1 (own goal).

Points table (read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points):

Pool A: 1. IOC 4-4-0-0-22-7-12; 2. IOB 4-3-0-1-16-8-9; 3. Army XI 4-2-0-2-18-11-6; 4. CAG 4-1-0-3-8-26-3; 5. SCR 4-0-0-4-8-20-0.

Pool B: 1. PNB 4-3-0-1-13-4-9; 2. BPCL 4-3-0-1-14-6-9; 3. Air India 4-2-0-2-15-11-6; 4. SAIL 4-1-0-3-12-15-3; 5. Indian Bank 4-1-0-3-12-30-3.

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