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Punjab Police win Nehru hockey
November 25, 2003 18:53 IST
Experienced striker Baljit Singh Dhillon scored twice off penalty-corners as defending champions Punjab Police outplayed fancied Indian Airlines 3-0 to win the 40th ONGC-Nehru hockey tournament at the Shivaji Stadium in Delhi on Tuesday.
The Jalandhar team converted three of four second-half penalty-corners they earned to emerge triumphant and add a sixth title to their kitty.
It was, however, a lacklustre performance by nine-time champions Indian Airlines. Their forward line lacked co-ordination and the defence was found wanting on a few occasions.
After a barren first-half, in which both the teams focused more on getting the measure of their opponents than creating openings, it was Indian Airlines who got aggressive as the mercurial Dhanraj Pillay made a few probing runs into the opponents box. But none of the Airlines attacks looked threatening as both their wingers - Sameer Dad and Arjun Halappa - were off-colour and could not make an impact.
In the 45th minute Punjab Police got their first real chance to break the deadlock but the reverse flick by their skipper, Gagan Ajit Singh, went wide.
However, it was just the beginning of the policemen's ascendancy as Daljit Singh (56th minute) and Baljit (58th and 68th) sounded the board to end the airmen's challenge.
The sizeable hockey followers who gathered to witness the final between the country's best teams were treated to a fast-paced encounter. But with the teams opting for man-to-man marking there was very little possibility of incisive moves and the ball remained mostly in the midfield.
"We never thought that the match will be so one-sided. But it was great to see the team perform the way it did," an elated Punjab Police manager Pargat Singh said after the match.
"Our players were a bit tired after playing for three days on the trot and we also had some injury worries. Even then we were never under pressure and that shows how well the team played."
Indian Airlines coach Mervyn Fernandis made no excuses for the defeat and said it was the best team on the day that won.
"After the performance we put up today we deserved to lose," he said.
Punjab Police went home richer by Rs 250,000 while Indian Airlines received Rs 150,000.
Earlier, Bharat Petroleum defeated Tamil Nadu XI 3-2 to finish third and win Rs 100,000.
Len Ayappa (4th minute), Ajay Saroha (18th, 24th) scored for the winners while Laxman Prabhakaran (13th, 34th) sounded the board for Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu XI also bagged the ONGC Fair Play trophy while Indian Oil was adjudicated the Most Promising team.