IOC defeats Air India by 3-1

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Mumbai, Sep 21 (UNI) Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Air India registered comfortable wins to set up a mouth watering title clash in the 8th All India Guru Tegh Bahadur Gold Cup Hockey Tournament at the Mahindra Stadium here today.

IOC got an opportunity to avenge their recent Murugappa Gold Cup defeat against Air India, when they rallied to an exciting 3-1 win over a gallant Punjab National Bank, after trailing by a fifth minute goal.

Air India enjoyed a smoother passage into tomorrow's final following a 5-0 rout of Indian Navy in the other semi-final.

International Shivendra Singh scored a brace, while Sandeep Singh, Arjun Halappa and Dhanraj Pillay added to Air India's tally.

PNB surprised the favourites and sounded an early warning with a first minute raid as Yudhveer Singh set up Sukhpal and Gurvinder, who both failed to connect while ideally positioned near the post.

But the bankmen quickly made amends four minutes later, as Damandeep put them ahead with a brilliant strike following an impressive move on the left to set the stage for an exciting encounter ahead.

Murugappa runners-up IOC came back into the match with the equaliser in the 15th minute when Bharat Chinkara made the most of a defensive lapse. PNB defender Sandeep Sethi fumbled at the top of the circle and failed to clear the ball as Chinkara capitalised on the blemish and fired home with a rasping reverse hit that went through goalkeeper Jasbir Singh's pads.

IOC could have gone up soon after, but former international Prabhjot Singh fumbled with only the goalkeeper to beat, after his first attempt was blocked.

PNB had the opportunity to take the lead a little later, but Damandeep's solo efforts was thwarted by a trio of IOC defenders with nobody to support the lone bank forward.

With PNB battling hard to stay in the match, former international Deepak Thakur brought timely relief in the IOC camp with a neat strike following a pass from the right in the 24th minute.

Roshan Minz made it more comfortable for IOC with a powerful hit from the top of the circle that left goalkeeper Jasbir Singh stranded and found the mark two minutes later for a 3-1 cushion at half time.

IOC seemed content to hold on to the lead and keep PNB in check in a barren second half in which the bankmen struggled to breach the rival defence.

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