Twin strike by Sandeep downs Punjab and Sind Bank
NEW DELHI: Two penalty-corner strikes by Sandeep Singh took Indian Airlines to its tenth title triumph in the Nehru hockey tournament at the Shivaji Stadium here on Saturday.
Indian Airlines all but outclassed Punjab and Sind Bank while scoring a 2-0 victory in the final, with veteran Dhanraj Pillay once again showing how good he still is as a play-maker. He was cheered lustily at the end of the match as he waved to the large crowd, as though he was saying his farewell.
Sandeep's proficiency with penalty-corner flicks is an acknowledged fact, though in the Indian team he finds it difficult to fit in because of his limited defensive skills.
On Saturday, coach Merwyn Fernandes provided the extra cover needed for Sandeep in the defence by keeping V. S. Vinay deep inside his own half, allowing Dhanraj, Bimal Lakra and Vikram Pillay to do the bulk of the running and scheming. Of course, the towering presence of Dilip Tirkey was the key in the Airlines defence.
Vinay played his role to perfection, though Sandeep himself was not all that inelegant in his tackling and interceptions not to speak of his hefty clearances. But when it came to penalty-corner flicks, the youngster was in a class of his own, with two deadly strikes, in the fourth and 53rd minutes.
Dhanraj figured in almost every move of the Airlines. And there were plenty, though not all of them posed a threat to the rival goal. But he managed to keep the pressure on the PSB defence, not allowing much room to the bank team's midfielders at the same time.
Sandeep Michael proved the weak link in the Airlines frontline, missing a few chances and failing to carry on an attack initiated either by Dhanraj, Vikram or Halappa.
As a contest the final could not gather momentum as PSB failed to find a way to breach the rival defence. It had its chances, though not many, and off the three penalty corners that the team earned, the expertise of Navpreet Singh was not allowed to become lethal.
The Airlines defended well by making it impossible for him have the time and space for his flicks. Two of the three penalty corners for PSB were taken by Davinder Singh who drives rather than flicks and these were taken care of easily, once by a rushing defender and on the second occasion by goalkeeper Adrian D' Souza. A third penalty corner for PSB, with four minutes left, did not pose a threat at all to D' Souza as an indirect attempt fizzled out.
There was only one serious attempt by the PSB frontline, towards the close when Ajit Pal Singh sent a reverse hit off a Baljit Saini free hit over. Dlip Tirkey and company handled the rest confidently.
The ONGC Fairplay Trophy and the Pepsi penalty corner award went to Bharat Petroleum. The Gian Singh best umpire trophy was awarded to Virender Bahadur.
The third-place match between Indian Oil and Namdhari XI was not played as the former refused to play in protest against the violent incidents the previous day when some of its players were among those injured.