All the news for Friday 2 January 2015
2015 - Look for an enchanting and vibrant era!
By S. Thyagarajan
Any endeavour at evaluating the events that rolled by for India in 2014 and also for competitive hockey across the globe envelops one in an emotional mélange.
It was fascinating in more ways than one, the undulating graph displaying incremental accomplishments for India, engendering hope of improving the world ratings.
The high point of the performances was the gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games after a fine sequence of victories that included scalping Korea on the home-turf and capping a magnificent, dramatic tie- breaker triumph against Pakistan to capture the top spot on the podium.
But the issue that would provoke a seemingly an unending debate relates to the la affaire Terry Walsh. After sweating out relentlessly to regain the image and identity for India in the world of hockey, the Aussie coach and the administration HI, not to leave out the Ministry of Sports, got engaged into a war of words, the polemics reaching to an exasperating level of ugly exchanges, with the media adding its own quota of fuelling the whole episode. In the end India lost the services of an outstanding coach, and ironically enough, a coach who showed results!
If the issues had been approached with less of emotions and more of realism a perfect solution could have been reached. Unfortunately, it did not.
Poignantly enough, the administration showed surprising reluctance to accept Walsh as the master tactician in crafting the wins, but projected the Roelant Oltmans, the high performance coach, as a shareholder. Beyond a point this can be argued against.
Even if the administration was dissatisfied with Walsh, or whatever his contretemps with the US Hockey, the issue could have still been resolved in a more sophisticated way avoiding all the sophistry.
Was a Terry Walsh was made a scapegoat in the war of words between HI and Sports Ministry? Misgivings on this score cannot be easily eliminated.
Anyway, after wresting the Asian Gold at Incheon bridging the gap of 16 years, and a fairly encouraging Test series against Australia, the Indian team could not even reach the podium at the Champions Trophy belying all expectations at Bhubaneswar.
Another blot was the bizarre semi-final tie against Pakistan. The victory celebrations of the Pakistanis acquired unacceptable manifestations ending in chaos taking away the sheen of a brilliant performance.
Pungent rhetoric from both sides vitiated the atmosphere that pulled even the FIH into the vortex of a controversy.
Over elaboration of the incidents that destroyed the spirit and ethos of competitive sport left only a bitter taste at the end of the year.
Aside from all these negative issues, the year witnessed a happy consolidation and harmony of the national team that held its own against teams like New Zealand (Commonwealth Games), the Netherlands and Belgium (Champions Trophy) and Pakistan and Korea (Asian Games).
Led by the unflappable warrior Sardara Singh, with excellent support from goalkeeper Sreejesh, defender Rupinderpal Singh, midfielders Gurbuaj Singh and Birendrea Lakra, strikers Akashdeep Singh, Dharambir, Manpreet, and a largely improved Sunil. There was a noticeable veneer of athleticism and aesthetics in the workouts. It is a matter of satisfaction that none the foreign coaches from Brassa, Hobbs, Walsh and Oltmans refrained from tampering with the basic Indian approach of dribble, dodge and deftness of touch.
Elsewhere, the power structure of contemporary hockey oscillated fascinatingly with Australia, Germany, England, the Netherlands and Argentina wrestling to outsmart the other.
The remarkably talented Aussies under the stalwart strategist, Ric Charlesworth, emerged the World Champion at The Hague, but finished third in the Champions Trophy giving up the top spot to the enigmatic but effervescent Germans, under Markas Weise, whose trump cards were Florian Fuchs and Christopher Ruhr.
There was a tinge of disappointment in the displays of the Netherlands, an invincible force not long ago at the start of the year in WHL, and the meteoric yet methodic Englishmen.
Interestingly, Argentina retained a lot of focus after picking a bronze in the World Cup.
On the distaff side, the resurgence of the Aussies with the Dutch still holding the reins of power chased by the brilliant maidens of Argentina. India succeeded in taking a bronze at the Asiad where the home team regained the Gold against the newly built Chinese team.
Ever on the look out for enhancing the entertainment value addicted to TV viewership, the FIH introduced the four- quarter format against much skepticism from a section of the coaches and traditionalists at the Asian Games. Another experiment came at the Youth Olympics.
Change is the sine qua non to every aspect of life, and the FIH is no exception to this truism. Compelled as it is to confront the challenges from other disciplines where too there are a lot of churning up rules and regulations to catch eyeballs, there is a growing need for the out-of-the-box thinking that brings monetary rewards for all.
At the golden dawn of 2015 today, the hockey world looks forward to a more vibrant phase with the HIL later this month coming under the spotlight.
A new hope or a false dawn?
Terry Walsh and Neil Hawgood, the men behind India’s noteworthy performances in the international arena, have quit. But they have left behind teams that have the capability to take India back to the top. How their legacies are handled will be crucial to Indian hockey.
By Uthra Ganesan
Members of the Indian women's team celebrate their victory against Japan in the bronze medal match at the Asian Games.
When India ended fourth in the Champions Trophy at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, it was an anti-climactic finish to a remarkable year, which saw Indian hockey overcome the odds, both on and off the field, in its attempt to regain lost glory.
The year 2014 is a watershed in Indian hockey. India became the continental champion after 16 years; it retained the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and beat higher-ranked sides such as Australia, Germany and the Netherlands — the teams that would normally have been expected to steamroll the Indian side — in major competitions.
On the field, the Indian team performed below par at the World Cup in The Hague, finishing a disappointing ninth. This triggered rumours of a premature end to coach Terry Walsh’s tenure. Last-minute jitters continued to haunt the team, as India lost some of the games at The Hague with barely seconds left on the clock.
Walsh’s tenure did end prematurely after a bitter dispute with Hockey India days before the Champions Trophy, which upset the balance of the team. However, before that, the Australian ensured India’s ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics. India overcame emotions and a fighting Pakistan in the Asian Games final to become the first team to qualify for the quadrennial event.
There have been times in the last decade when the Indian team performed well and raised hopes of a revival before fading away due to a variety of reasons. The difference this time, however, was the manner of India’s rise and the positive attitude of its players. With Walsh and Roelant Oltmans at the helm, the Indian men developed a ‘can do’ outlook. This was first visible when India beat the European powerhouse, Germany, in a close match at the Hockey World League Finals and then drew against it in the World Cup.
The signs of revival were also seen on the tour of Australia recently, where, after losing 4-0 to the home team in the first game, India bounced back to win the next three matches and claim the series for the first time ever. And in the Champions Trophy, India fought back from two stinging defeats to beat teams such as Holland and Belgium.
The steady rise of the Indian team can be attributed to several factors, but the most important was the level of physical fitness of the players, which was unheard of in Indian hockey. Barring perhaps Australia — which is also going through a period of transformation and adjustment with a new staff in place — India is now on a par with the fittest teams in the world. To the federation’s credit, despite the upheavals vis-à-vis the chief coach, it has managed to ensure the best physical trainers for the team.
With five major competitions in 2014, it was a hectic schedule for any team in the world. The fact that most of the core members of the Indian team played every single tournament and did not disintegrate, either physically or mentally, until the very end of the season was a remarkable achievement.
However, the last minute jitters that had afflicted the Indian team in the past relapsed in Bhubaneswar, as it lost matches in the dying minutes, including the nerve-wracking semifinal against Pakistan. This had more to do with the calendar than the ability of the players. India played the maximum number of big-ticket tournaments in 2014, and it was obvious in the Champions Trophy that some of the key members of the team were jaded. That they did not fall apart is creditable, but there was no denying the fact that some of them were desperately in need of a rest.
According to Oltmans, the team made the kind of errors through the tournament it had never committed earlier. Many players admitted that they knew they were making mistakes, but just could not rectify them. That, perhaps, was because of mental fatigue. The Indian team hardly got any time in-between tournaments to work on its shortcomings.
The emphasis on following a structured approach to the game also helped Indian hockey. Instead of running haphazardly and exerting themselves physically, the Indians played smart hockey. Instead of going all out to score all the time, the team is beginning to learn the importance of patience and striking at the right moment. The final against Pakistan in Incheon is a fine example.
“Pakistan played like we used to. I guess they were surprised that we did not fall apart and charge at them despite trailing in the match. They expected us to get worked up and commit mistakes, but this team has learnt how to keep its emotions in check during a match,” Walsh said after India’s victory.
If an Indian player can keep his emotions in check against Pakistan, it is unlikely he won’t be able to do so against any other team. This matured thinking — that matches are won and lost, as much in the mind as on the field — is something that has been the biggest takeaway for India in 2014.
The Indian women too did not lag far behind. Participating in just two major events, they won a bronze medal at the Asian Games and finished fifth at the Commonwealth Games. More importantly, the Indian women’s team was a lot younger with far less international exposure than the men’s team. The women’s team coach, Neil Hawgood, asserted that the core players of the side are good enough to help India qualify and be competitive at the Rio Olympics two years on.
Hawgood, though, would not be the one taking the women’s team to Rio. The Australian decided not to renew his contract with the team, citing homesickness after two and a half years at the helm.
India’s achievements in 2014 not only raise hopes for the coming year but also add to the pressure of performance. The men behind the teams’ performances in the international arena have quit. But Walsh and Hawgood have both left behind teams that have the capability to take India back to the top. How their legacies are handled will be crucial and will determine if the year 2014 is a turning point in Indian hockey or yet another false dawn.
Playing musical chairs with coaches
The Indian hockey team is all set to welcome yet another foreign coach. It will be interesting to see who succeeds Terry Walsh and how quickly he gels with the team and the present system.
By Y. B. Sarangi
Terry Walsh… unceremonious exit. S. SUBRAMANIUM
After disappointing experiences with several foreign coaches, the Indian hockey team finally made satisfactory progress under Terry Walsh. However, ironically, the Australian great had to bid adieu to the team under unsavoury circumstances.
The year 2014 was one of the finest for the Indian hockey team in decades. The side earned a series of eye-catching successes despite a hectic schedule.
The primary challenge before Walsh was to make the team follow an organised pattern of play without completely compromising its attacking style of play. He made the players adapt to the change, which has been an essential factor in modern day hockey. The team responded well.
A sixth-place finish in the World League Final, a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games and an Asian Games gold medal after a gap of 16 years were the major achievements for the Indian team, under the Aussie’s guidance. India’s historic Asian Games victory also earned it a place in the 2016 Olympics.
Walsh’s good work also helped the team beat World champion Australia 3-1 in a series Down Under.
However, the Australian resigned after the Asian Games. Walsh made some demands — which, according to him, were necessary to take the team forward — in order to continue as the chief coach. The Aussie, having the experience of coaching several National sides, insisted that he should be allowed to work from his home in Perth when there was no camp and the team was not playing any tournament. He also wanted financial rewards for his good work.
Walsh’s other demand pertained to organisational adjustments to delegate specific authorities to appropriate individuals. Interestingly, the former India coach, Jose Brasa of Spain, had also said in 2010 that the head coach needed to have “full power and control” over everything related to the National team.
Even after three rounds of meetings — involving the Sports Ministry representatives, Hockey India personnel and a panel of experts — to deliberate on Walsh’s demands, the matter remained unresolved.
The Sports Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, who was agreeable to most of the demands, himself tried to sort out the issue and allowed Walsh a few days time to think over the issue.
Meanwhile, Hockey India sprang a surprise, with its president Narinder Batra questioning Walsh’s integrity. He claimed that the U.S. federation had some financial issues with the Aussie when he served in that country.
Despite the problems with coaches, the high performance director, Roelant Oltmans, stresses the need for continuity so that the Indian team builds up in the right way for the 2016 Olympics. M. VEDHAN
Batra demanded that the top-rated coach must come clean on that before he could think of availing his service again.
Walsh reacted strongly, saying the allegation was “slanderous” and initiated legal action against the U.S. hockey federation.
As the war of words between Walsh and Batra intensified, the latter concluded that Hockey India did not need the Aussie’s service any more and started looking for a new coach.
With the Indian team all set to welcome its fourth foreign coach in about six years, there are a couple of points that need to be attended to. The first point, as the High Performance Director, Roelant Oltmans, stresses, is to ensure continuity so that the Indian team builds up in the right way for the 2016 Olympics.
The other important point, which emerged during the Champions Trophy, where India finished fourth, is consistency in performance.
“If this group remains together, it has a bright future,” says Oltmans.
With less than two years remaining for the Olympics, it will be interesting to see who succeeds Walsh and how soon he gels with the team and the present system. Hockey India’s search for a new coach will be keenly watched in the New Year.
Year 2014: Few highs, many lows for Pakistan hockey
By Umer Bin Ajmal
It is easy to put all the blame on financial restraints for the poor performances shown on the hockey field — those factors are legit — but skill and ability must also be taken into some account.
Hockey being Pakistan’s national game has been more of an embarrassment for the country lately, the failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in the game's history is an unforgiving blot on the Greenshirts. But should everything be put down to the financial troubles?
Over the years, Pakistan has not only lost its ‘golden touch’, something which experts used to describe Pakistan’s style of playing, but also confidence and self-belief.
Hockey legend and Olympian, Samiullah, said it would “take us years to match the standard of the European teams … While the Europeans have progressed by leaps and bounds” Pakistan only lagged behind in every aspect of the game.
Samiullah, dubbed the 'Flying Horse' for his much-storied pace on the hockey pitch, said England had exposed Pakistan's falling standards after the Greenshirts were hammered 8-2 by England in the recently concluded Champions Trophy.
And that's what needs to be fixed, a national-level plan which reintroduces hockey into the nurseries of the past: the schools.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation needs to work at the grass-root level to better the state of hockey in the country. And 'grass-roots' does not simply mean setting up a field or two or installing brightly-coloured turfs. Why not work on the model of successful academies such as the one in Gojra, the likes of which have produced over hundred international players?
World Cup failure, Azlan Shah pull-out and CWG fiasco
There were more than a few debacles that Pakistan found itself in during the course of the year. One after another, Pakistan remained in the limelight for its share of controversies which hurt the sport.
Pakistan, the most successful hockey team with four titles in the bucket, kicked off the year 2014 with the nightmarish thought of not being part of the game’s most prestigious tournament, the World Cup.
A lively Korean side had hit the Greenshirts hard earlier in 2013’s Asia Cup when they knocked them out in the semis and also from a spot at the World Cup for the first time in their history.
The team, the federation and the management was subjected to severe criticism following the disaster. “We have to live with the reality now and we will have to make a long-term plan for Pakistan hockey,” Pakistan’s then coach Tahir Zaman had said.
Whatever the long-term plan was, it did not emerge in the near future.
Mohammad Imran and South Korea's Yoon Sung-hoon compete for the ball during men's hockey semifinal match at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. — AP
Following the memories of failing to make it to the World Cup, the state of the game sank further. The federation was later seen pulling the team out at the 11th hour from the 23rd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup citing “lack of funds”.
The question arises here, if there were any financial troubles, were they not known beforehand? But as it goes, some questions are better unanswered or a Pandora box is opened engulfing everyone in its surroundings.
Though Pakistan’s overall performance in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has been really commendable. Out of its 23 editions being played up till 2014, the Greenshirts have grabbed the title three times (1998, 2000 and 2003), were runner-ups six times (1983, 1987, 1991, 1994, 2004 and 2011) and secured third position thrice (2001, 2008 and 2009).
The fiasco continued.
The team was denied entry to the Commonwealth Games and astoundingly the entry was not barred due to any ‘lack of funds’, ‘security situation’ or team’s ‘poor performance’ but because of the federation failing to meet up the deadline of sending an expression of interest to the Games organising committee. The deadline for this was extended twice for Pakistan.
Pakistan, however, did send contingent of other sports to the Games, which ended up putting on a dismal show.
Failure to qualify for the World Cup, pull-out from the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and being denied entry to the Commonwealth Games was enough to add to the miseries for Pakistan Hockey — all during one year.
Rising from the ashes?
With very little hope to count on and against all odds, Pakistan came out tough and hard in the Champions Trophy played in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar.
Despite losing all the pool matches, which also included the miserable defeat to England, Pakistan put up a resilient performance to outclass Netherlands in the quarterfinal, knocking out the world number two from the competition.
The victory came as a surprise, as the team which suffered misfortune throughout the year displayed that they could conjure up a little bit of magic from time to time still.
It is also worth mentioning that had it not for the support of a couple of businessmen and their financial support, Pakistan would not have been able to participate in the Champions Trophy.
The victory over the Dutch was not mere luck as being termed by many critics, but team Pakistan took their top form to the semifinal, where the greenshirts beat India in a contest of high nerves. Though the celebrations after the game turned out to be rather controversial, the victory remained neat and clean.
Irfan Mohammad celebrates his team's victory over India during their Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2014 semi final match at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. — AFP
On paper, Pakistan played six matches in the Champions Trophy and victory in just two of them may not speak volume but the circumstances under which the team played under cannot be ignored.
The start of the year may not be the best one would have hoped for, but ending it on such a high note raises expectation and hope. Unpredictability has been Pakistan’s biggest weapon. Whenever it has been pushed to the wall, Pakistan has turned itself around, be it any sport.
Can Pakistan continue to build on this little spark of brilliance they found at the end of the year? Can the federation rise above petty politics and work for the betterment of the sport? Can individuals look beyond and work as a unit? These are the questions which define how the team fares in 2015.
2014 leaves bittersweet memories for Pakistan hockey
MEMBERS of pakistan hockey team pose with their silver medals following the Champions Trophy final against Germany at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India.
THE year that has just gone by was bittersweet as far as Pakistan hockey team is concerned. Sweet in the sense as greenshirts seized back-to-back silver medals in a span of 80-days and bitter for not able to participate in World Cup and failing to earn a direct ticket for 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
At the outset, the year started with a blow when Pakistan skipped the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup held at Ipoh in March and the Commonwealth Games that took place at Glasgow in July-Aug for one reason or the other.
For a nation that once ruled the world in field hockey, the failure to compete in the World Cup for the first time ever at The Hague in between the above two events was disappointing. The four-time world champion Pakistan failed to earn a direct passage for The Hague by finishing third in the Asia Cup at Ipoh in 2013.
South Korea overcame India 4-3 in the final to win Asia Cup and qualify for The Hague.
Australia, meanwhile, had a befitting start as they maintained their ascendancy in Azlan Shah Cup, Commonwealth Games and the World Cup to complete hat-trick.
After a lull for most part of the year, the first test for the greenshirts under new team management came at the Incheon Asian Games in Sept-Oct where the defending champions had to be content with silver.
Drawn in same pool (B), Pakistan defeated India by odd goal in three (2-1) in the league but squandered the title as the latter avenged defeat beating the former 4-2 on penalty shootout after 1-1 in regulation time of the final.
The defeat deprived Pakistan a direct ticket for the 2016 Olympics and the team will have to go through the agony of playing qualifiers at Antwerp, Belgium, from June 20 to July 5 this year.
The year culminated with the 35th Champions Trophy in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar where Pakistan, the 11th ranked team in the world, surprised the pundits of the game with a second place finish losing 0-2 to Germany in the final. Both the finalists were benefitted by the new format.
Earlier, a rejuvenated Pakistan disposed of Holland 4-2 in the knockout quarter-final and then sent host India packing 4-3 in the semi-final before a hostile crowd. The triumph annoyed the Indian team and the packed-to-capacity crowd as the greenshirts celebrated.
On the home front, Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) settled the dust of criticism by bringing disgruntled former Olympians into its fold on April 16. While Shahnaz Shaikh took over the reins of national team as manager-cum-chief coach, Islahuddin Siddiqui was given the task of chief selector.
Earlier, the PHF constituted a three-member committee comprising Khawaja Zakauddin, retired Col Zafar Ali Zafri and Iftikhar Syed to mediate with the group of angry Olympians.
Samiullah, Manzoor Hussain junior and Qamar Zia were among others who refused to bow down and remained stick on their path.
A couple of veteran players who reached The Hague to feature in FIH Master’s Cup alongside the World Cup, suffered humiliation when they were stopped to compete for not fulfilling the events requirement in time.
Karachi, meanwhile, had the honour of staging the 28th national women’s hockey championship in March and 33rd national juniors hockey championship in the month of May. Formidable Wapda inflicted 2-0 defeat on Railways to retain women’s title while the juniors event ended in a blaze of glory for National Bank of Pakistan who stunned holders Wapda 2-1 in the final.
The PHF time and again voiced their concern over financial constraints and difficulties to keep the ball rolling. They insisted for an annual grant of Rs500 million but to no avail yet. Punjab chief minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif doled out Rs100 million to PHF earlier in the year.
Some entrepreneuers pooled the finances that helped the team feature in the Champions Trophy across the border.
Eminent hockey commentator S. M. Naqi and reputed former Olympian Anwar Ahmed Khan left for eternal abode. The hockey fraternity also mourned the death of former Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) president Sultan Azlan Shah in Malaysia.
Good signs have started emerging and it is high time the government should wake up and timely release ample funds in order to prepare a winning combination for Olympic qualifiers.The delay will lessen the chances of making it to the next Olympics. Islamabad should also honour hockey players to keep their morale high as the followers keep their fingers crossed.
Arsalan, Imran record hat-tricks at National Hockey
LAHORE: National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), Wapda and Railways recorded impressive victories at the PSO 61st National Hockey Championship in Sialkot on Thursday.
Arsalan Qadir’s hat-trick plus two goals each by Mohammad Tousiq and Dilber propelled NBP to a massive 9-0 victory over Islamabad.
Arsalan, who rose to prominence at the recently held Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar where he scored the decisive goal in the high-voltage semi-final against arch-rivals India, struck in 27th minute converting a short-corner and then scored back-to-back goals (47th and 48th) on field efforts.
Arsalan was ably supported by Tousiq, who found the net in seventh and 21st minute, cashing in on a penalty-stroke and then penalty-corner. Dilber netted goals in the third and 29th minutes. Mohammad Atiq (12th) and Sibtain (28th) chipped in with one goal apiece.
Meanwhile, in another match hat-trick by Mohammad Imran and two goals by Asad Bashir helped Wapda blank Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 7-0.
Imran sounded the board in the sixth, 16th and 36th minutes, all on field attempts. Asad fired goals in the 10th and 30th minutes. Mohammad Khalid (44th) and Tasawar (48th) contributed one goal each as KP failed to defend against relentless Wapda onslaught.
In another game, Railways drafted an impressive 5-1 win against Sindh as Shaharyar (7th), Junaid Manzoor (40th), Adeel Latif (42nd), Qasim Ahmed (49th) and Waseem Akram (59th) scored. Shujaat Ali (eighth) scored the consolation goal for the losers.
Meanwhile, tournament director Anjum Saeed imposed a one-match ban on tournament officer Rana Sajid for reporting on the match late.
Anjum also banned umpire Hafiz Atif Malik for three matches for his wrong decisions/judgments during a match between the HEC and Port Qasim, played on Wednesday.
PIA vs Punjab; Army vs SSGC; NBP vs Customs.
Arsalan hat-trick guides NBP to 9-0 win over Islamabad
KARACHI: A spectacular hat-trick by Arsalan Qadir guided NBP to defeat Islamabad 9-0 on the seventh day of 61st PSO National Hockey Championship at Sialkot Hockey Stadium on Thursday.
Muhammad Dilber and Muhammad Tousiq scored a brace each, while Muhammad Atiq and Sibtain scored one each to win the game 9-0.
In the other match, Muhammad Imran scored three goals to help Wapda defeat K-P 7-0.
Asad Bashir also scored two goals for Wapda, while Muhammad Khalid and Taswar Abbas scored one each.
In another match, Shahryar Ali, Junaid Manzoor, Adeel Latif, Qasim Ahmed and Waseem Akram scored one each for Railway against Sindh to win the match 5-1, while Shujaat Ali was the only player who was able to score for Sindh.
Meanwhile, tournament director, Anjum Saeed, imposed a ban on tournament officer Rana Sajid for one match as he reported late for the match on Thursday.
The Express Tribune
Big boys Punjab Police made to sweat by DAV
A match in progress at the Liberals Hockey tournament in Nabha on Thursday. Tribune photo
Patiala, - EME Jalandhar defeated J&K Police 3-0 in a one-sided encounter on the fifth day of the 39th GS Bains Liberals All India Hockey Tournament in Nabha. In other matches, Punjab Police edged past DAV Academy Jalandhar 2-0, Air Force New Delhi stroked out SAI Hostel Bhopal 6-4 and last year’s runners-up Jarkhar Academy upset Corps of Signals Jalandhar 5-3.
EME carried too many guns against J&K Police and romped home convincingly. EME controlled the game from the start. S Munda broke through the opposition defence in the second minute to score from a difficult angle. The policemen depended solely on their counter-attacking but failed to dent the Army defence.
In the 10th minute, EME’s seasoned campaigner Avtar Singh went past the opposition defenders and slipped the ball to the unmarked Biju Singh, who scored with a sharp strike. EME completed the 3-0 rout after Gurmeet Singh converted a penalty-corner rebound in the 28th minute.
Punjab Police, 10-time winners of the event, did not enhance their reputation and barely managed to get past DAV Academy, scoring once in each half. Harminder Singh (17th minute) and Sarabjit Singh (57th) were the goal-scorers. Punjab Police showed glimpses of their skills only were content to remain on the back-foot, defending their lead.
In the third match, Air Force New Delhi managed to outwit SAI Bhopal 6-4 in the tie-breaker after the scores were 3-3 at the end of regulation time. The Airmen overcame early reverses to overtake the hard-fighting Bhopal boys, who had gained a 3-0 lead with goals in the 7th, 13th and 20th minutes through Pawan, Navdeep and Nadeem.
The Airmen came back from behind and scored two quick goals, through inside-left Lovepreet (23rd minute) and fullback Alam (27th). Lovepreet scored his second goal from a short corner in the 69th minute to make it 3-3.
In the last match, Jarkhar Academy surged ahead in 12th minute when Gurjit Singh scored after a solo run from near the 25-yard line. Corps of Signals scored three goals through Rahul, who got a brace, and Manjinder. But goals from Damanjit, Gurjit, Jagjit and Inderjit clinched the match for the Jarkhar boys.
EME (Jalandhar) bt J&K Police 3-0
Punjab Police bt DAV Academy (Jalandhar) 2-0
Air Force (New Delhi) bt SAI Hostel (Bhopal) 6-4 (in penalty shootout)
Jarkhar Academy bt Corps of Signals (Jalandhar) 5-3