A resurgent Army XI produced a solid all-round performance to inflict a crushing 5-0 defeat on last year's runners-up Indian Oil in a quarter-final match of the Union Bank of India 42nd Gold Cup Hockey Tournament, co-sponsored by Punjab National Bank and State Bank, at the BHA-Mahindra stadiumin Mumbai, on Tuesday.
The Army outfit packed too much ammunition in their artillery and pounded the Indian Oil citadel with regularity to troop out worthy winners and advance to the penultimate round.
Army XI will take on Western Railway, Mumbai, in Thursday's second semi-final.
Indian Oil may have certainly missed the services of four of their key players, Viren Rasquinha, Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur and Devesh Chauhan, all doing duty for India in the Olympic qualifiers in Madrid, Spain.
However, that was no big excuse for them as later defending champions Indian Airlines, who too missed four regular members, Dilip Tirkey, Bimal Lakra and Vikram Pillay all with the Indian team and Dhanraj Pillay, gave a good account of themselves and soared to an impressive 4-1 victory against Central Railway in another quarter-final match.
Airlines will clash with Punjab and Sind Bank in the first semi-final on the same day.
Indian Airlines hardly felt the absence of their four players as the bench strength came up with an equally good performance and fitted perfectly into their scheme of things. They took off on a bright note and cruised ahead without encountering much turbulence from their opponents.
The railwaymen despite not being able to match the overall performance of the superior Airlines outfit, managed to put up a good fight but could only score just one goal.
Indian Airlines opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Birendra Lakra tapped the ball home after receiving Girish Pimpale's measured square pass from the right.
Later, drag flick specialist Sandeep Singh converted two penalty-corners on either side of the lemon break to give Airlines a commanding 3-0 lead.
Although Central pulled one back through Rajeev Bhatkar in the 48th minute, Airlines made the issue safe when Brojen Singh cracked home the fourth goal in the 59th minute.
Earlier, Indian Oil found the well-organised Army XI and the Mumbai heat and too hot to handle and caved in rather meekly. They seemed to be a jaded lot and their display was so poor that they hardly troubled the rock-solid Army defence.
Army XI rocked the Indian Oil boat in the 10th minute when C.S. Xalxco sounded the boards with a crisp drive from their first penalty-corner. Indian Oil were denied a chance to draw abreast when Army goalkeeper Sunny Samuel moved to his left to save Kamlesh Kumar's push from the penalty spot.
The penalty was awarded by umpire Shakeel Qureshi after Inderjit Singh was deliberately fouled by Army defender Jajith Singh inside the circle in the 31st minute.
That miss proved costly for Indian Oil as a minute later Army XI's S.K. Ekka, from a solo effort, found the target to add the second goal.
After the change of ends the army side maintained their stranglehold and fired in three more goals to complete the rout.
In the 39th minute Sosan Topno scored from his second attempt following Cyprian Aind's square pass. Xalxco fired in his second and the team's fourth goal with another firm hit from their third penalty-corner before Suresh Kumar struck seconds before the hooter to add to Indian Oil's misery.
There will be no matches at the venue on Wednesday.
In Thursday's semi-finals, Indian Airlines meet Punjab and Sind Bank at 2.30 pm while Western Railway clash with Army XI at 4.30 pm.