Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) would be wondering when and how to break the Nehru Senior hockey tournament jinx. In its fourth final of the tournament in seven years on Monday and fifth overall, the team continued to end up on the losing side. This time, it went down 6-5 to Punjab and Sind Bank on penalties after being 3-3 at the end of the regulation time.
In the 50th edition of the competition, BPCL continued to remain the unluckiest team in the tournament. Having won two of its matches in the competition through tie-break to reach the final, it lost out in the crucial encounter at the Shivaji Stadium.
The match was exciting with little to separate the two teams. BPCL did not start on a positive note when it conceded an own goal in the sixth minute due to a defensive lapse. But it made up two minutes later when Gurpreet Singh converted a penalty stroke. Thereafter, it was midfield battle with BPCL forwards making the occasional foray into the opposition circle.
Veteran forward Amar Aiyamma, who will retire from active hockey after this game, was the pick of the players for BPCL.
He was on target most of the times, sought out tiny gaps in defence to move ahead and scored two brilliant goals — one a soft push from an acute angle on the backline and the other a solo effort from the top of the D, getting past a couple of defenders and wrong-footing the goalkeeper.
For PSB, former India forward Sarvanjit Singh acted as the perfect playmaker and, along with captain and Player-of-the-Tournament Vikramjeet Singh, kept up the pressure on the BPCL defence of Ajay Saroha and William Xalxo.
A defensive blunder in the 57th minute from BPCL, however, turned things around with PSB earning a penalty corner and converting it to level scores 3-3 and take the game into the tie-break.
In the play-off for the third spot, Indian Oil Corporation stamped its authority over underdog South Central Railway with a crushing 9-0 victory. IOC slammed goals at will against a non-existent defence. Captain Deepak Thakur proved his class by earning penalty corners, creating two of the goals and leading from the front on the scoresheet — he scored thrice, the last of them on one knee, brushing past the goalkeeper’s gloves.
Final: PSB 3 (Ajit Pandit, Vikramjeet Singh, Own Goal) bt BPCL 3 (Amar Aiyamma 2, Gurpreet Singh) via tie-break; Third place play-off: IOC 9 (Deepak Thakur 3, Yuvraj Walmiki 2, Pradhan Somanna, Didar Singh, Rajupal, Own Goal) beat SCR 0.
Fair play trophy: Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.
Player of the Tournament: Vikramjeet Singh (PSB).