Playing against a strong and experienced outfit like Karnataka, Air India needed all the luck to emerge victorious. Having suffered a 0-6 mauling at the hands of Indian Oil Corporation at the same venue in the Obaidullah Gold Cup a few days back, Air India desperately needed help from the Almighty.
Instead, they had to endure another nightmarish evening as they crashed out of the Senior National Hockey Championship at the Aishbagh Stadium on Thursday.
Air India dominated the match barring the last 20 minutes, but succumbed 1-2 via golden goal to a team that looked quite ordinary.
The teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time after VR Raghunath slammed home a powerful drag-flick in the 61st minute to negate Vikram Pillay's first-half goal off a penalty-stroke.
Raghunath then flicked home off the team’s sixth penalty-corner in the fifth minute of extra time to seal a memorable victory for Karnataka, which sealed a semifinal berth against strong contenders Punjab.
Punjab reached the last-four by thrashing Bihar 9-0 in the first quarterfinal of the day. Jharkhand continued their giant-killing act, defeating Railways 2-1 to reach the semifinal.
GROUNDED, AND HOW?
Air India had themselves to blame as their forwards messed up at least five clear chances in the first half. To rub salt into their wounds, Karnataka custodian, Bharat Chhetri had a brilliant day in the cage as he pulled off some superb saves.
To compound their misery, AI lost Shivendra Singh to injury.
The forward injured his collarbone in a clash with Karnataka's Vikram Kanth and had to be taken to hospital for an x-ray. He suffered a muscle injury and would be out for at least 15 days.
Young forward Yuvraj Walmiki, who was the hero when he bagged the penalty-stroke, turned villain when he missed three chances with only Chhetri to beat.