Karnataka XI became the first team to qualify for the Super League stage of the Nehru Hockey tournament when they comprehensively defeated Indian Air Force XI 4-0 in New Delhi on Thursday.
The hero of the day was Appanna, who scored a hat-trick to effectively wipe out any hopes the IAF may have had of qualifying. Karnataka dominated throughout the 70 minutes, leaving little scope for their opponents to make their moves, or even plan any.
They made their intentions clear right from the word go and were on the offensive throughout. They earned their first penalty corner in the fifth minute itself. However, the first decisive move was made in the 25th minute, when Appanna slotted the ball in from the top of the striking circle, after being put through by Ravi Kumar, to draw first blood for Karnataka.
Three minutes later, another opportunity went abegging when Dinesh shot wide after receiving a well-placed cross from Somanna. Ravi Kumar and Appanna were again involved in Karnataka’s second goal at the stroke of half time, as Karnataka went into the break with a 2-0 lead.
If IAF had any hopes of coming back into the game, an unmarked Appanna put paid to them with his third goal of the match. He slotted the ball in after a Dinesh cross had rebounded off goalkeeper Vishnu Prashant. That was the 37th minute of the game, and the IAF had no option but to launch an all-out attack.
They managed to earn three penalty corners in the next 10 minutes but failed to capitalise. The IAF’s best chance to score came in the 51st minute but an unmarked Navin Rawat was the culprit as he failed to trap the ball in front of the goalmouth, with only custodian Alwin Felix to beat.
In the 65th minute, Prabhakar’s hit off a penalty corner hit the crossbar, and that was the end of any semblance of fight the IAF had in their veins. Vineet Michael rounded off the tally for Karnataka in the 68th minute.
Earlier, Indian Navy bounced back twice to edge past South-Central Railway 4-2. SCR took lead in the ninth minute through KK Bharath but the Navymen equalised two minutes later when Ajay Kumar sounded the board. Amit Shrivas made it 2-1 for SCR. However, Navy pumped in three goals, through Sajit Lakra, SB Gorde and PL Murugappan, in the second half to register victory.
Indian Navy vs PNB (11:30 am), SAI XI vs Air India (1:15 pm), Army XI vs Western Railway (3 pm).