Aga Khan Cup: Army boys show their might to tame a hapless Nagpur outfit

In the early exchanges, both sides looked a tad lethargic and did not appear to be playing up to their full potential. However, once the deadlock was broken by the Army boys, the momentum that they received from the goal was enough to propel them over the line and helped them scored three goals in quick succession.

pune Updated: Dec 06, 2018 16:46 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,aga,khan
Dhanapur Army boys (white and orange) in action against Nagpur XI at the 115th Aga Khan cup at the Major Dhyan Chand hockey stadium at Nehrunagar, Pimpri on Wednesday.(HT PHOTO)

Dhanapur side Army boys proved to be no match for Nagpur XI as the side from Uttar Pradesh decimated the Maharashtra outfit, winning the contest 4-0 at the Aga Khan hockey tournament held at the Major Dhyan Chand hockey stadium in Nehru Nagar, Pimpri on Wednesday.

Captain Sajan scored two goals while Munis Singh and Ankush recorded one strike apiece en route to their side’s convincing victory on the day.

As many expected, it was the army side that started the game strongly and carved out two wonderful goal-scoring opportunities in the first five minutes, only to be denied by the heroics of the opposing goalkeeper Saifuddin.

While Nagpur spent a lot of time without the possession of the ball, even they had a key chance a little after the 10-minute mark, but their attacker Syed Nazim fluffed his lines.

The mistake proved to be costly as only after a few moments, Army boys managed to draw the first flood through a fantastic reverse hit by Munis in the 17th minute.

In the 18th, Benjamin once again found himself involved in the goalmouth action as his pass found the stick of Ankush, who calmly slotted the ball into an empty net after a huge defensive gaffe by the Nagpur side to double his side’s advantage.

Goals appeared to be coming in left, right and centre, as in the 19th minute, Army boys were already three strikes to the good and it was their captain Sajan who stepped up to the ask this time around.

He linked up wonderfully with two of his teammates before applying the finishing touches on what was a well-worked effort from their own half.

After taking a three-goal lead, the Dhanapur outfit slowed down the tempo of the game and opted against throwing too many bodies forward. Instead, their coach opted for a more conservative approach which saw enjoy the lion’s share of possession going into halftime.

In the second half, the crowd in attendance that were expecting a fightback from the Nagpur side were left disappointed as the Maharashtra outfit failed to seize the initiative in the game and rather pressing the opponent higher up, they primarily focused on staying compact and hitting Army Boys on the break.

This approach clearly did not seem to work as the technical players in the army side continued creating decent goal-scoring opportunities and were finally rewarded when Sajan added his second of the evening to make the score 4-0.

After the fourth goal, with the match won, the Army Boys coach decided to make an array of changes as he brought off a number of his big names in order to prevent them from getting jaded or injured.

In the day’s other matches, Pune’s Spartans XI faced an early bath after they lost 4-1 at the hands of SL Orissa while Chandigarh XI triumphed over Punjab XI by a 2-0 scoreline. There was some good news for Nagpur as in the girl’s draw, their side edged Bhopal XI 1-0 to progress to the next round.

Turning Point

Getting the game’s first goal proved to give the team the boost they needed to push for a victory. In the early exchanges, both sides looked a tad lethargic and did not appear to be playing up to their full potential. However, once the deadlock was broken by the Army Boys, the momentum that they received from the goal was enough to propel them over the line and helped them scored three goals in quick succession.

Player of the Match: Sajan

Sajan played a phenomenal captain’s knock as he led the line with aplomb and looked unstoppable for the Army Boys. His constant movement in between the lines gave the opposition defenders tough decisions to make as to whether or not to track his runs. His performance on the ball was exceptional as he scored two goals and created an array of chances for his teammates, but even off it, he contributed immensely, winning crucial tackles in the opposition half which gave rise to numerous counter-attacking opportunities.

Army boys coach Mohd. Intekhab Alam says, “We deserved to win by more but I’m happy with the result. 4-0 might show that it was a comprehensive win, but our opponents gave us a run for our money and we had to be at our best to win this one.

“The ground is slippery and slightly dirty. I hope the Cantonment Board looks after the pitch better as there is a chance of getting injured on such surfaces.”

First Published: Dec 06, 2018 16:39 IST