SA hockey women outplay India
A rampant Investec South Africa women’s hockey team were at least six goals better than an outplayed India during the Champions Challenge playoffs match in a sodden Dublin on Friday but eventually had to settle for a 2-0 victory through goals from world record holder Pietie Coetzee and midfielder Lesle-Ann George.
SA had 18 goalscoring opportunities to India’s three, but as in the quarter-final, the hockey gods weren’t playing ball. The driving rain didn’t help the players’ grip on their sticks, which was a contributing factor.
The South Africans’ dominance further underlined the folly of the International Hockey Federation’s experimental format at this tournament, which gave the teams that finished third and fourth in the respective pools a chance to have another crack at the title.
The folly was underscored when Pool A winners SA somehow contrived to lose Thursdays quarter-final to Spain, who ended last in Pool B. The folly was then rammed home when only one of the teams who would in the usual format have earned the right to be in the semi-finals, actually made it.
SA led 1-0 at half-time through a Coetzee penalty corner drag-flick that bulged the net for her 224th goal in 226 Test matches. The talismanic striker might have had two before the changeover but her penalty stroke was saved by outstanding Indian keeper Yogita Bali.
SA continued to blitz India’s goal box in the second half, until the second goal finally materialized three minutes from the end. Strikers Sulette Damons and Coetzee were the initial actors down the left channel before Lesle Ann George delivered the finale for the 2-0 final score.
Coetzee was most unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty stroke a minute later but SA were through to the playoff for fifth position on Sunday against hosts Ireland or Azerbaijan, an opponent that would be determined late Friday night.
India, with star World Cup 2010 striker Rani Rampal a constant threat, had their best scoring opportunity from the first penalty corner of the match, but the flick was turned away by alert SA defender Kim Hubach.
While the desperately unlucky 3-2 golden goal quarter-final defeat to world number 10 Spain on Thursday was still a raw wound, Investec SA at least had the satisfaction of turning the tables on world number 11 India after the countries’ previous two encounters had ended in victory for the girls from the sub-continent.