| Sunil Yadav of Indian Oil (centre) is challenged by PSB defenders in the Beighton Cup semi-final at Mohun Bagan ground Tuesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: BSF Jalandhar and Indian Oil laboured their ways into the final of the 108th Servo Indian Oil Beighton Cup after tie-break drama Tuesday. While BSF edged out Army XI 5-3, Indian Oil scraped past Punjab and Sind Bank 6-5 at the Mohun Bagan Ground.
The extreme heat and uneven ground conditions made life difficult for the players. It’s a pity that the semi-finals and the final of such a prestigious tournament is being played on a venue where even the footballers often have a tough time controlling the ball.
So the semi-finals never reached the desired heights. Still, in the first match, it was the heroics of goalkeeper K. Subbiah that clinched the issue for BSF. After saving the citadel a number of times in regulation time, he saved two penalty strokes in the tie-breaker.
The match was tied 1-1 in regulation time. Christopher Ekka sounded the board with a powerful shot from a penalty corner to put them 1-0 ahead in the fifth minute.
Army XI came back strongly and in a space of five minutes, forcing five consecutive penalty corners. But Subbiah stood up to the task to keep the armymen at bay.
After sustaining continuous pressure for most of the second half, Army XI restored parity with seven minutes to go for the final whistle.
Paramjit Singh cut down the left and sent a measured pass to C.S. Khalko who set it up for Avtar Singh to flick in.
In the tie-breaker, Harbhajan Singh, Devinder Kumar, Ekka and Sushil Khujur scored for the winners while Avtar and Harpreet scored for Army. Subbiah saved Khalko and Harjit Singh’s strikes.
Though Harbhajan, the captain of BSF was a happy man, he felt that it’s impossible to play quality hockey in such a surface.
In the second semi-final, Indian Oil almost paid dearly for becoming too defensive after taking the lead in the first session. The Indian Oil players had complete control over the proceedings with Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur and Lakhwinder Singh combining beautifully upfront.
They took the lead in the 28th minute off a penalty corner taken indirectly. Prabhjot sent a measured ball from the left and Kamlesh Kumar lurking nearby made no mistake.
Prabhjot at times showed glimpses of his famous dodging skills, but it was the uneven surface that took the sting out of his stickwork.
Prabhjot later lashed out at the organisers for providing poor grounds for matches.
In the second session, Indian Oil made the error of withdrawing Lakhwinder and Deepak Thakur from the attack and Prabhjot became the only man upfront.
So, the steady flow of attacks dried up and the PSB, led by local boy Baljit Singh Saini stormed back into the game.
After two failed chances in the 46th minute when Devinder Pal Singh’s through pass found Sandip Singh Seep, but the latter failed to tap in with the goalkeeper at his mercy and four minutes later when Rajbir Singh was off the mark from close range.
Their efforts finally bore fruit in the 54th minute. Sharanjit Singh struck the board off a powerful hit following an Ajit Pal Singh penalty corner.
But after the equaliser, none of the teams seemed to take the initiative and the game dragged on towards extra-time. However, PSB could have sealed things up in the seventh minute of added on time, but Ajitpal failed to tap in a cross from the left.
In the tie-breaker, Bikramjeet Singh, Prabhjot, Lakhwinder, Thakur and Khushmeet Singh found the target for Indian Oil. Ajitpal, Rajbir, Jatinder Pal Singh and Harpreet Singh were the lucky ones for PSB.
Sharanjit, taking the second stroke for PSB, blew it over the cross bar.