Indian Oil won the Nehru Hockey tournament for the second time, defeating Namdhari XI 2-1 via golden goal, after clearly dominating the proceedings in regulation time.
IOC have been in striking form through the tournament. Saturday was no different, and they went on the attack right from the beginning. It did not hurt that they have perhaps the most prolific forward-line amongst domestic teams. And the advantage of having played at the highest level was evident from the outset as skipper Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh created attacks from either flank.
The first scoring chance for IOC came in the eighth minute, when Thakur’s well-placed cross from the top of the striking circle was passed by Prabhjot to Bharat Chikara, who attempted a carpet shot from the right but missed narrowly.
However, the lead wasn't too long in coming, with the trio combining again three minutes later. An almost similar move from the centre was initiated, this time by Bharat, and Thakur's high shot found the net.
In the second half too, IOC created an early chance when in the 38th minute, Thakur gave the ball to Prabhjot, who failed to reach it, but the ball almost rolled into the goal before being checked by Gurpreet Singh on the goalline.
The Namdharis, known for their aggression, were rather subdued; the men from Bhaini Sahib attempted a comeback but could not. Their one real chance came in the 49th minute when a Gurvinder Singh cross from the right was shot straight at IOC custodian Baljit Singh's pads by Jatinderpal Singh. Jatinderpal earned a penalty-corner seconds later, and a goalmouth melee resulted in Sher Singh levelling scores.
That was the lone bright spot for Namdhari. Though they had greater ball possession in the second half, they failed to breach the IOC defence. Nitin Kumar was especially impressive in the midfield, serving a reminder to the IHF mandarins, who dropped him from the national squad despite a decent World Cup outing.
But the player of the match was undoubtedly Bharat Chikara. Instrumental in finding holes in the Namdhari defence, it was only fair that he scored the winner in the 72nd minute after receiving the ball from Thakur.
In the third-place playoff, Punjab Police beat BPCL 7-6 in extra time after being tied 6-6. Jugraj Singh slammed home five, including the winner, all through penalty-corners. Deepak Kumar and captain Baljit Dhillon scored one apiece. For BPCL, Pundalik Bellary scored three while Ravi Pal, Joginder Singh and Vikramjeet Singh scored one each. Uthra Ganesan