Young and vibrant Tamil Nadu and Karnataka outfits produced spirited performances in their respective groups to liven up the proceedings on the opening day of the 90th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Thursday.
Tamil Nadu held a fancied Air India, which had five former India stars in the starting XI, to a 2-2 draw in a Pool ‘A’ tie while the Karnataka lads displayed character to put it across Punjab & Sind Bank 2-1 in Pool ‘B’.
Though it was a creditable performance from the host, it has a long way to go to beat the top sides. The average age of the team is 24 years, and none of the players is international level yet.
But, on the day, the boys were up to it.
In a first half which was evenly matched, it was Tamil Nadu which opened its account first, through Joshua Bendici Wesley.
Osaf-ur-Rehman then fired in a blistering shot off a pass from Maninderjeet Singh to equalise.
The Tamil Nadu forwards were quick and attacked relentlessly but could not convert several half-chances.
During the few penalty corners it won the team came up short.
Air India came close to scoring midway in the second half. A Gagandeep Singh stroke off a corner was deflected by Aravind at the goal-line.
TN took the lead in the 56th minute after Aravind’s attempt off a corner was padded away by Air India ’keeper Adrian d’Souza, but Hassan Basha latched on to the rebound and flicked it home.
A couple of minutes later, Air India found the equaliser again — a Gagandeep shot off a corner found the top of the roof — thereby dousing TN’s hopes of a victory.
Karnataka’s forwards and midfield worked in near-perfect harmony, giving a seasoned PSB unit the jitters.
Captain Nitin Thimmiah, an India capper, was the fulcrum of the team, marshalling the midfield.
Pradhan Sommanna converted a corner with a perfectly-hit grounder in the 21st minute.
From then on Karnataka completely dominated the show.
Defence held strong even though Sarvanjit Singh and Ramandeep Singh tried their best to unsettle it.
Leading by a goal at half-time was proof enough the Karnataka was in control.
Satbir Singh got a gem of chance to equalise in the second half when he sidestepped a defender, but with only the ’keeper in front, the forward slipped and fell.
However, Sarvanjit Singh levelled scores, PSB looked a different side.
With the Bank-men attacking from both wings, it was Karnataka ’keeper Jagdeep Dayal who shone.
He was remarkable under the bar coming up some lovely saves; the best was when he gloved away a powerful drive from Sukjeet Singh.
Karnataka, however, went on to shut the door on PSB when Nithin worked his way from the left and placed a back-hander nicely into the other side with the ‘keeper Guriqbal Singh watching helplessly.
Pool ‘A’: Hockey Unit of TN 2 (Joshua Bendici Wesley 17, Hassan Basha 56) drew with Air India 2 (Osaf-Ur-Rehman 30, Gagandeep Singh 58).
Pool ‘B’: Karnataka 2 (Pradhan Sommanna 21, Nitin Thimmiah 66) bt Punjab & Sind Bank 1 (Sarvanjit Singh 52).