One little slip and it was all over for Air India (AI). An own goal in extra time saw Punjab defeat an experienced AI 2-1 in the final to clinch the Second Hockey India Men’s National Championship here on Tuesday.
With scores tied at one apiece in regulation it went to extra time to decide the winner but it didn’t last long, two minutes to be precise.
Punjab midfielder Gurbaj Singh’s cracking hit towards the goal was deflected in his own goal by AI’s VS Vinaya and that was the end of it. Punjab were crowned champions while AI were left stunned.
Earlier, the capacity crowd were treated to some breathtaking action, especially in the second half, after a lacklustre first. Both teams had chances in the first but couldn’t convert. AI’s Sameer Dad made a diving try to deflect a pass from AB Cheeyanna but missed. In another instance, Shivendra Singh could not latch on to a pass from Somanna Pradhan from the left flank. For Punjab, India player Ravipal Singh missed narrowly in the 23rd minute.
Neither side earned any penalty corner in the first half.
The second half was a complete reversal of the first. The tempo went up several notches and with that kind of pace the goals weren’t far away. Within a minute into the second half Punjab scored through Prabhdeep Singh. But they couldn’t hold on to their lead for long. AI scored two minutes later through Vinaya, whose drag-flick found no resistance. With time running out, the stakes were becoming increasingly high and so was the pace of the match. But, no attempts were successful and the issue was forced into extra time.
Results: Final: Punjab 2 (Prabhdeep Singh 36th, Own Goal 72nd) bt Air India 1 (VS Vinaya 38th); Third-place playoff: Karnataka 2 (MB Aiyappa 24th, VR Raghunath 41st) bt Haryana 1 (Sardar Singh 60th)
Special awards: Best defender: Gurjinder Singh (Punjab), Best forward: Arjun Halappa (Air India), Player of the Tournament: MB Aiyappa (Karnataka)