Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) emerged first time champions in the 86th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament on Sunday when they overcame fancied Indian Oil Corporation 2-1 in the final.
The match-winner came in the 61st minute when Bikash Toppo found the net with a neat reverse hit to break the deadlock. Earlier, Diwakar Ram put ONGC in the lead with a 11th minute penalty corner conversion and IOCL equalised in the 56th through veteran Prabhjot Singh.
The difference between the two teams, although marginal, was ONGC's superior defence and organisation with full-back and captain Harpal Singh, a former India player, being outstanding.
IOCL, despite possessing a better and more experienced forward-line of Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh and Roshan Minz, fared miserably at the finish where they missed at least six clear scoring opportunities.
ONGC, on their part, had their share of missed chances, but their focus on defence was not misplaced given the firepower of IOCL.
IOCL began the proceedings on an ominous note and came up with a couple of aggressive forays that should have resulted in at least two goals in the opening 11 minutes as Minz and Thakur failed to beat goalkeeper Dinesh Ekka.
The two close shaves only buoyed ONGC who then proceeded to dominate the proceedings and even go ahead on Diwakar Ram's brilliant drag-flick conversion in the 11th minute.
ONGC continued to press hard, but apart from missing a couple of chances, did not really trouble the IOCL defence. At the other end though the trio of Minz, Thakur and Prabhjot put together some pleasing moves only to get it all wrong at the finish.
In the second-half, IOCL showed some urgency and came up with the equaliser when Prabhjot pounced on a rebound from a penalty corner sequence to score. Specialist Ramachandra Raghunath essayed a drag-flick which got deflected off runner Harpal’s stick and rolled to Prabhjot who flicked home.
Thereafter, IOCL threatened a great deal with Thakur and Prabhjot in full flow, but their old magic was missing as both were a source of embarrassment inside the striking circle.
ONGC nearly paid the price for their defensive approach, but with Harpal marshalling the deep defence, they just about survived and scored their second goal from a counter-attack. Pramod Kumar fed Dharmender who in turn relayed to Toppo on the left. The nippy forward turned and let fly a reverse hit past Devesh Chauhan to seal the issue in ONGC’s favour.