AI started in right earnest and held the upper hand against Central Railway whose goalkeeper Avadhut Solankar stood tall © Getty Images (Representational Image)
AI started in right earnest and held the upper hand against Central Railway whose goalkeeper Avadhut Solankar stood tall © Getty Images (Representational Image)

Mumbai: Defending champions Air India clinched a narrow 3-2 win against a prodigal Central Railway (CR) in a Pool ‘A’ clash of the 12th PMC Bank-Guru Tegh Bahadur All India Gold Cup Hockey Championship at the MHAL- Mahindra Stadium on Thursday. In other games, Comptroller and Auditor General (Delhi) outplayed Hockey Bhopal 4-0 in a Pool ‘B’ match, while Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala tamed local outfit Mumbai Customs 6-3 (half-time 2-2) in a Pool ‘A’ match. AI started in right earnest and held the upper hand against Central Railway whose goalkeeper Avadhut Solankar stood tall and made some good saves to restrict them to a slender 1-0 half-time lead, with skipper Shivendra Singh scoring from a penalty corner in the 11th minute.

In the second half, Central put up a much improved display and created quite a number of chances but they were badly let down by some poor finishing. AI doubled the lead when new recruit Janma Majhi neatly deflected home Mayur Patil s diagonal hit into the circle in the 41st minute. Central fought back and two minutes managed to reduce the deficit when Yuvraj Walmiki found Affan who coolly tapped home from close.

At the other end, Central goalkeeper Solankar did well to save Arjun Halappa s penalty stroke. AI, who were under pressure, managed to find the third goal when veteran Sameer Dad scored from the rebound following a short corner in the 62nd minute before Central got a late goal through Harmeet Singh s penalty corner conversion to reduce the margin.

Results: Pool A: RCF, Kapurthala 6 (Poonacha M G 18th minute, Karanpal Singh 33rd, Gagandeep Singh 38th, Sanjay Bir 41st, Deepak Sharma 56th, Gavravjeet Singh 60th) beat Mumbai Customs 3 (Vijay Thapa 7th, Jayesh Jadhav 29th, 37th), Air India 3 (Shivendra Singh 11th, Janma Majhi 41st, Sameer Dad 62nd) beat Central Railway 2 (Affan Yusuf 43rd, Harmeet Singh 70th).

Pool B: CAG 4 (Navneet Swarnkar 11th, V Samughan 35th, S S Bundela 64th, Nitin Thimmaih 70th) beat Hockey Bhopal 0.