ONGC emerge champions

ONGC emerge champions

Debutants edge IAF 3-2 in final league encounter

ONGC emerge champions

Debutants Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) scored a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 win over minnows Indian Air Force to pocket the Ozone Group-KSHA National Hockey League Championship here on Thursday.

Pushed to the limit by a tenacious IAF who took a 2-0 lead within th opening 15 minutes, ONGC appeared heading towards a monumental last day collapse after having led the league for most part.

However, Diwakar Ram pulled one back before Tyron Pereira and Pramod Kumar struck twice in the space of two minutes late in the second half as ONGC eked out a hard-fought victory and with it the championship at the KSHA stadium.

“We weren’t complacent but the boys thought they had won the league,” said a relieved manager Niraj Panth. “We were sloppy at the start and IAF capitalised brilliantly. However, we never gave up and our determination and hard work paid off.”

ONGC, who took home a cheque of Rs 2 lakh, signed off with 27 points, five ahead of runners-up IOCL.

Needing a simple victory to clinch the championship, ONGC appeared out of sorts at the start and were duly punished by a charged-up IAF. Capitalising on the acres of space offered, IAF went ahead through Jaspreet in the eighth minute before storming to a 2-0 lead seven minutes later, thanks to Topno M.

ONGC slowly awoke from the slumber, pulling one back in the 20th minute following a fine penalty corner conversion from former India international Diwakar Ram.

Soon after the goal, errors crept in in their play as IAF began to dominate once again. But they were denied by the brilliance of Dinesh Ekka, with the ONGC custodian pulling off three brilliant saves in the second half.

After surving some anxious moments, ONGC finally found their equaliser in controversial circumstances. Unmarked Pereira deflected home a rising ball and while IAF protested citing dangerous play, umpire Amar Singh Negi awarded it as a goal. Pramod then cashed in on some poor defending, slotting home in the 62nd minute as ONGC captured their fourth straight title -- All India Shastri, Nehru Cup and Bombay Championship -- from November last.

Results: ONGC: 3 (Diwakar Ram 20th, Tyron Pereira 60th, Pramod Kumar 62nd) bt IAF: 2 (Jaspreet 8th, Topno M 15th); Army Red: 4 (Dhanajay Mahadik 20th, Sunil Ekka 37th, 69th, Armugam 43rd) bt BPCL: 2 (Hari Prasad 12th, Ravipal Singh 13th); Air India: 4 (Devender Walmiki 2nd, Sandeep Michael 11th, 21st, Len Aiyappa 40th) bt IOCL: 3 (Deepak Thakur 19th, Gurjinder Singh 30th).

Individual awards: Best goalkeeper: Jagdeep Dayal (SAI); Best defender: Ajay Saroha (BPCL); Best midfielder: Prabhakar (IAF); Best forward: Ramandeep Singh (ONGC); Player of the tournament: Lalit Upadhya (ONGC).

Faiplay award: SAI.

Standings: ONGC (27 points) 1; IOCL (22) 2; Air India (21) 3; BPCL (19) 4; Army Red (16) 5; PNB (14) 6; Army Green (12) 7; SAI (11) 8; Fortis (7) 9; IAF (6) 10; MEG ‘A’ (6) 11.

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