A great performance from last year’s runners-up Karnataka went down the drain as Air India snatched a 3-2 win, thanks to a last minute penalty corner conversion, in the semifinals of the second Hockey India senior national men’s championship here on Monday. In the final, AI will take on Punjab, who scored a comprehensive 4-1 victory over last year’s champions Haryana, on Tuesday.
Karnataka, who had beaten AI in the quarterfinals last year, were the dominant force throughout the match and created numerous chances. In fact, it was a pleasant surprise when the young local side did a good job of taking on a side that is full of current and former India internationals. Karnataka created a lot of chances, while AI were mostly busy defending. Late in the second half, AI played a very attacking game and that was when tempers were frayed and there were some unpleasant scenes that saw skippers Arjun Halappa (AI) and VR Raghunath getting yellow cards. Karnataka, unhappy with some umpiring decisions, were down to nine men when Nikin Thimmaiah got a yellow card too.
Earlier, Karnataka scored through Pundalik Bellary (32nd) and Nitin Thimmaiah (44th). However, the 2-0 lead was nullified as former India captain Halappa converted two penalty strokes. AI took their last penalty corner even as the final hooter went off. They had missed eight corners in the second half, but this one was converted when VS Vinaya slapped in the ball off a rebound.
In the first semifinal, Haryana surprisingly did not play to expectation and went down 1-4 to Punjab. Gurjinder Singh converted two penalty corners, while Sarvanjit Singh and Satbir Singh accounted for the other two. Haryana’s lone goal came through Naveen Antil.
Results (semifinals): Air India 3 (Arjun Halappa 50th, 61st, VS Vinaya 70th) beat Karnataka 2 (Pundalik Bellary 32nd, Nitin Thimmaiah 44th); Punjab 4 (Gurjinder Singh 15th, 21st, Sarvanjit Singh 51st, Satbir Singh 58th) beat Haryana 1 (Naveen Antil 58th)