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TN, Indian Airlines in semis
November 22, 2003 18:25 IST
Displaying tremendous fighting spirit, Tamil Nadu XI came from behind twice to defeat Air India, Mumbai, 5-4 while fancied Indian Airlines barely managed to pip BSF, Jalandhar, 2-0, in the quarter-finals of the 40th ONGC-Nehru hockey tournament in Delhi on Saturday.
The hockey lovers were treated to a great encounter of nerves as the Tamil Nadu boys not only kept their cool, even though trailing their Mumbai opponents for most part of the tie, to clinch the winner in the penultimate minute through a brilliant field goal by Arumugam.
Coming into the match with a cent per cent record in the Super League phase, Air India looked like running away with the match when they took a 2-0 lead by the 27th minute as Jitender Saroha (8th minute) and Dulla Singh (27th) found the net.
But the Tamil Nadu team kept their hopes of a fightback alive at the break with a 34th minute goal by Gagan Senthil, who made no mistake in converting the penalty-stroke.
The beginning of the second half was no different with Air India skipper Devinder Kumar scoring in the fourth minute to give his team a 3-1 lead.
When all looked lost for the team from south India, their captain Laxman Prabhakaran took the onus on himself to take on the Air India defence and created many opportunities.
Prabhakaran's efforts paid off as Arumugam (40th minute) and Rathakrishnan Sr. (56th) sounded the board to equalise.
Air India regained the advantage in the very next minute with a penalty-stroke conversion by Surinder Kundu but Prabhakaran restored parity in the 59th minute through a penalty-corner.
In the other quarter-final, Indian Airlines were a pale shadow of themselves as their star line-up never looked confident against the fighting BSF players.
The airmen, who boasted of seven Olympians in their ranks, never looked like threatening the BSF goal as the Jalandhar team's move to pack their defence with seven players paid off till the last six minutes.
Former junior international Hari Prasad broke the deadlock for Indian Airlines in the 64th minute when he deflected in a hit by Bimal Lakra.
As the BSF boys pressed for the equaliser a few openings were created in the defence which were exploited superbly by Sameer Dad, who broke into the BSF circle only to be obstructed at the goalmouth by Mangru Tirkey.
Arjun Halappa made no mistake in converting the ensuing penalty stroke in the 69th minute to put the result beyond doubt and also ensure a semi-final berth for his team.