Air India bags 7th Maharaja Ranjit Singh memorial hockey crown
Air India lived up to it’s billing, putting it across Punjab and Sind Bank by a brace of goals in a one-sided final game to clinch the 7th Oriental Bank Maharaja Ranjit Singh Memorial Hockey Tournament, which concluded at the Shivaji Stadium in New Delhi.
The airmen, who have been conspicuous by their listless showings en route to the summit clash, showed that experience counts in big matches as they outplayed the bankmen in all departments of the game.
Air India, boasting a bevy of former internationals like Arjun Halappa, V.S. Vinaya, Sameer Dad, Prabodh Tirkey and Vikram Pillay, proved their superiority in no uncertain terms.
Air India dominated proceedings from the starting hooter and put the Punjab and Sind Bank defence under severe pressure.
Air India’s dominance was translated into a goal close to half-time when Prabodh Tirkey, the younger brother of another former international fullback Ignace Tirkey, drew first blood in the 29th minute. Prabodh made the most of Air India’s second penalty corner, whipping the ball home after being fed by V.S. Vinaya. Air India went into half-time with a 1-0 lead.
Punjab and Sind Bank needed to come out all guns blazing in the second half to stay in the contest. The young bankmen side were not allowed to play their natural game by their vastly experienced opponents.
Air India maintained its dominance in the second half but had to wait until the 57th minute for another goal, when Vikram Pillay rattled the Punjab and Sind Bank cage.
With thirteen minutes to go, Punjab and Sind Bank had a herculean task of first restoring parity and then finding the match winner.
Air India, who were playing their best match of the tournament, stood firm and kept the ball in their opponents’ half, much to the frustration of the bankmen.
Punjab and Sind Bank were let down by poor finishing. Ramandeep Singh, who scored a fine hat-trick against Indian Navy in the quarter-finals, cut a sorry figure, muffing up quite a few chances.
Air India took home a cash award of Rs. 1.5 lakh, while runners-up Punjab and Sind Bank pocketed Rs. 1 lakh.
Earlier in the semifinals, Air India eased past Indian Air Force (IAF) 3-1. The airmen scored from short corners with the likes of Vikas Pillay, V.S. Vinaya and A.B Cheeyanna sounding the board in the first half. Jagroop Singh reduced the margin in the 23rd minute.
In the other semifinal, Punjab and Sind Bank edged out defending champions Army XI 2-1. All the goals came in the first half.
The bankmen scored through Karamjit Singh and Ramandeep Singh, while veteran Ignace Tirkey fired for Army XI.