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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Army strike gold

Army XI's endurance paid off as the Bangalore side pipped local giants Air India to retain the Bombay Gold Cup title. In a match that saw both teams miss almost half a dozen chances each, Mahadik's 62nd-minute drag flick was enough to settle the issue.

The effect of playing back-to-back matches in severe heat and humidity was evident.
Air India suffered the most, having played the tie-breaker against Punjab and Sindh Bank (PSB) on Tuesday. Matching Army's pace was always going to be difficult for the airmen but they managed to do that in the first half.

The home side played the waiting game for most part of the first half, allowing Army to enter their half and then catching them on the break.

It was in the second half that Army dominated the Mumbai champions and stepped up a notch or two.

"We had a game plan in mind and stuck to that. Thankfully, it paid dividends," Mahadik said.

Joga Singh, who was the star in Air India's semifinal win on Tuesday, looked completely off colour. The airmen sorely missed the services of a drag flicker, failing to convert any of the five penalty corners that came their way. "We had to try variations throughout since we didn't have a proper drag flicker. If we would have, then the scoreline might have been different," their coach Gavin Fereira said.

Army, on the other hand, took complete advantage of their fitness, pacing the match in the sultry conditions to perfection.

Mahadik was the centre of their moves on more than one occasion as he has been throughout the tournament. They kept on knocking on the Air India door.

Air India had chances too and were twice denied by the umpire. Joga claimed a deflection that went past Army goalkeeper PT Rao in the fourth minute but umpire Raghu Prasad signalled a long corner, much to his disappointment.

Later in the second half, Dhanraj Pillay's hit from a penalty corner was also disallowed.

Earlier in the day, Indian Oil beat PSB 4-2 to clinch the third spot.

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