It's not often that a hockey team triumphs despite possessing just one 'S' of the four - Speed, Skill, Strength, Stamina — needed to excel on artificial turf. But yesterday, a skillful Air India did just that to beat a stronger, fitter and quicker Army XI 3-1 via the shootout in the Guru Tegh Bahadur final at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium here.
Air India coach Dhanraj Pillay congratulates goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza after his heroics in the shootout saw AI beat Army XI 3-1 in the Guru Tegh Bahadur final yesterday. Pics/Atul Kamble
Going into the final knowing fully well that the army lads would come quick and hard at them, the airmen, under the tutelage of their wily coach and former India captain Dhanraj Pillay, smartly slowed down the proceedings and in the bargain, even gained control for a better part of the match. Though no goals were scored in regulation time and the final was decided by a shootout, here too, AI had planned well.
"After our practice sessions Adrian (D'Souza, goalkeeper) works a lot on shootouts. So, when the final also went into the shootout, I was confident we'd win," said Pillay, whose team arrived here riding on D'Souza's heroics in a shootout against ONGC in the semis.
Guru Tegh Bahadur champions Air India at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium
In yesterday's shootout, D'Souza denied Army's Vishwa Thakur, Rajnish Salaria and Binay Bhengra, while AI's AB Cheyanna, Vikas Pillay and Joga Singh converted their attempts.
Army coach CB Devdas was distraught. "We knew they would slow down the game and were ready for it, but somehow we couldn't score (in regulation time). Then, in the shootout we always knew it would be tough to beat Adrian," said Devdas.