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Gold Cup: Army XI annexes the Honour (4/29/2009)
--K. Arumugam
Army XI retain the Bombay Gold Cup

Defending champions Army XI fashioned a thrilling 1-0 win over Air India to retain the title in the 47th Bombay Gold Cup Hockey Tournament at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium on Wednesday.

In an exciting championship round between formidable teams, Army XI struck the winner through captain and Player of the Tournament Dhananjay Mahadik in the 62nd minute off a penalty corner.

Army XI received Rs. 1.25 lakh, while runners-up Air India received Rs. 75,000.

Earlier, in the Hardlines Cup, Indian Oil overcame 2004 winners Punjab & Sind Bank 4-2, after leading 2-0 at half time.

Air India, winners in 2001 and 2002, put the Army defence under early pressure with three consecutive threats within the first 20 minutes while the defending champions were in the process of settling down.

But Army withstood the pressure with stout defending that included two of the many brilliant saves by goalkeeper Nizamuddin who blocked Sameer Dad’s and Vikas Pillay’s powerful hits off penalty corners.

Army XI almost took the lead soon after in a swift counter attack, but the Air India citadel survived with goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh, who also was outstanding, deflected Xalco’s hit off a brilliant Dhananjay Mahadik pass following an impressive move on the right.

Air India, who squandered five penalty corners, escaped another threat just before the half time while their defender Ajmer Singh blundered in the circle. Army’s Jagir Singh capitalised on the blemish and latched on to despatch a cross that went abegging with nobody to tap home.

Army XI came back strongly after a goalless first half and kept a check on Air India’s moves, including a strict vigil of dangerous schemer Dhanraj Pillay.

It affected Air India’s smooth rhythm that they enjoyed while combing well in the opening half and in the process Army missed three brilliant chances that came their way.

On the first occasion, Xalco’s powerful hit was blocked by a prostrate custodian Gurpreet in the 36th, while Jagir failed to connect a long cross from the right before a vacant goal in the 56th and Mansid Bhengra’s reverse hit from the top of the circle went wide in the 60th.

Army’s efforts finally paid off when they earned only their third penalty corner in the match and were rewarded with the winner when Dhananjay Mahadik’s drag-flick beat goalkeeper Gurpreet and found the net in the 62nd minute.

As time ticked away, Air India made two brave attempts soon after in search of the equaliser. But Bimal Lakra’s reverse hit from the top of the circle sailed over the bar and goalkeeper Nizamuddin rushed out to foil Yuvraj Walmiki.

Results: Final: Army XI 1 (Dhananjay Mahadik) bt Air India 0.

Hardlines Cup: Indian Oil (Didar Singh 3, Inderjit Singh) bt Punjab & Sind Bank 2 (Sharanjit Singh, Daler Singh).

Player of the Tournament: Dhananjay Mahadik (Army XI, Rs. 10,000)

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Dhanajay Mahadik
by Ajeet Singh on 5/1/2009 1:33:52 AM
Nice to hear about Dhanajay's performance. I didn't know about his drag flicking. I remember Dhanajay being in the 2005 U21 team for the WC, but I don't think he has played for the senior team. Can anyone update us on his chances of getting selected in the future? We could do with a quality player who is adept at drag flicks.