SA men go down to Spain
London - The South African men's hockey team slumped to a second loss in three matches, after Spain ran out 3-2 winners in SA's third Olympic Games pool A clash in London on Friday night.
SA headed into the game needing maximum points to kick-start their bid for a semi-final place, after earning only a single point in their first two matches against world No 1 Australia and Great Britain.
South African captain Austin Smith
led from the front as he celebrated his 100th cap for the national side against the 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallists.
SA opened the scoring nine minutes from the break, as penalty corner (PC) specialist Justin Reid-Ross
sent a rocketed effort past Spanish goalkeeper Francisco Cortes, who got a touch, but could not stop the superb shot as the ball sailed high into the back of the net.
Spain equalised a short while later from their third PC of the game, through Marc Salles who slid onto Pau Quemada's push to the right post and guided past SA keeper Rassie Pieterse to send the teams into the break level at 1-1.
Spain dominated the opening 10 minutes after the break, as Quemada turned goal scorer after a solid build-up from within their own half, with the striker picking up a pass inside the area and pushing past Pieterse who was left stranded at his near post.Lloyd Norris-Jones
had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 50th minute but drove his shot into the side-netting, leaving Spain with a big let-off and SA with plenty of work in the last 20 minutes.
The controversial video referral system was once again called into action 15 minutes from the end, as Spain scored their third – from a PC – but not before the referee called for a referral to determine whether the ball came off a Spanish foot.
The evidence appeared to show that the ball did in fact come off a foot, but the goal stood and Spain went two goals clear.
SA fought hard to stay in the game, fighting off continued Spanish waves of attack and scored somewhat against the run of play with eight minutes left on the clock, as Ian Haley
picked up a loose ball and found striker Norris-Jones, who had only the keeper to beat, which he did in clinical fashion to reduce Spain's lead to just one.
Spain were handed a yellow card with six minutes left, meaning SA were a man up and had the numerical advantage heading into the dying minutes, but in the end, SA were left with too much ground to cover as Spain earned their first win of the tournament, leaving the South Africans rooted to the bottom of the table with two games to play in the pool stages.
SA next face Pakistan on Sunday, before rounding off their pool against Argentina on Tuesday.