Punjab upstage holders Railways, face Petroleum Board in national hockey final
Punjab upstaged holders Railways 3-1 while Petroleum Sports Promotion Board edged out Air India 3-2 in the semi-finals of the men’s national hockey tournament in Lucknow on Saturday.Updated: Mar 24, 2018 18:31 IST
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Former champions Punjab and Petroleum Sports Promotion Board stormed into the final of the Senior Men’s National Hockey Championship (A Division), notching up contrasting wins on Saturday.
Punjab derailed holders Railways, winners for three consecutive editions, 3-1 and PSPB edged out Air India 3-2 in the semi-finals at the Padmashree Mohd Shahid Stadium.
No one had expected such a turnaround for Gurbaj Singh-led Punjab, and his team let the sizeable crowd enjoy some superlative stickwork in the morning.
Dharamvir Singh struck a double as Punjab, playing aggressive hockey from the start, didn’t give Railways scope for retaliation even when they had possession for quite some time in the second quarter.
Punjab forged in the 13th minute through Dharamvir’s field goal. He found the target again in the very first minute after change of ends, giving his team a 2-0 lead in the 36th minute. Under panic, Railways tried to raise their attacks but to no avail.
And before Railways could fight back, Sarvanjit Singh struck the third goal for Punjab in the 39th minute to deflate Railways. Off a counter attack, Railways scored one through Malak Singh in the same minute. However, any further goal remained elusive as the Punjab defence was quite calculated against rival attacks.
The PSPB-Air India match turned out to be a thriller. Star-studded PSPB had to struggle before rallying to brushing aside multiple-time former champions Air India with seasoned Tushar Khandekar scoring twice to lead a PSPB rally.
With a number of former India stars in their side, Air India dominated early on and shot into lead in the 10th minute through right-in Arjun Sharma. The goal was the result of a defence lapse on the part of Jarmanpreet Singh, who missed a tackle and ball went to Arjun inside the penalty circle.
But a minute before the second quarter ended, experienced Tushar Khandekar drew parity, striking from close range. The goal allowed PSPB to regain their poise, and like he had scored his first goal, Tushar found his second in the 26th minute to push the side into lead. PSPB continued to dominate and within three minutes Affan Yousuf scored to consolidate the team’s lead.
In a desperate move, Air India stepped up their attacks in the final quarter, and it paid dividends when Arjun Sharma scored after dodging a bunch of rival defenders in the last minute. An organised attack seconds before the hooter did raise Air India’s hopes of an equalizer, but the umpire turned down their plea for a penalty corner.
On Sunday, Railways take on Air India in the hard-line match at 9.00am while the final between PSPB and Punjab begins at 3.00pm.
First Published: Mar 24, 2018 18:31 IST