Army XI put up a fight to beat South Central Railway (SCR) 3-2 and win the Lal Bahadur Shastri Hockey Tournament here on Saturday. The final turned out to be a thriller between two sides that started the tournament as underdogs.
SCR began well and were able to trouble Army’s defence. They managed to force a rare error inside Army’s shooting area and earned a penalty stroke. Gursev Singh converted to give SCR the lead in the 10th minute.
Army retaliated swiftly. Anil Ekka and S Mundu combined well on the wings and with centreforward Sunil Ekka were a handful for the relatively inexperienced S.C. Railway’s defence. They levelled the score when S Ekka slammed in a reverse hit off a penalty corner in the 19th minute. Army followed it up with their second goal in the 31st minute through a powerful strike by Ritesh Kumar and went for the breather leading 2-1.
In the second half, it was Army which scored again, Eliazer Lakra consolidating their lead in the 52nd minute through a straight drag flick off a penalty corner. S.C. Railway reduced the margin but it came too late. Army held on to their single goal advantage to bag the title.
Gopal Chand, Army manager, attributed the victory to his players’ fitness. “The rigorous training programme has got us this result. It is very important to not just play but attack throughout the 70 minutes of the match,” he said. Eliazer Lakra was adjudged Player of the Tournament while KK Bharath of SC Railway emerged highest goal scorer.