SA men end tour on a high
Lloyd Norris-Jones (File)
Santander - The South African men's hockey team earned a hard fought 4-3 victory over India here in Spain on Wednesday to end their European tour on a high.
A tense last quarter of the game concluded with the South Africans successfully defending a last minute penalty corner, which would have levelled scores, but India blazed wide to hand them victory.
The South Africans enjoyed plenty of possession and looked a determined outfit as they attempted to iron out any final concerns ahead of the London Olympic Games.
South Africa turned their possession into a valuable lead nine minutes into the game, with defender Rhett Halkett finding Lloyd Norris-Jones with a superb ball.
Norris-Jones beat his marker and found Clinton Panther, who created a clear run into the area where he scored for the tourists, beating goalkeeper Bharat Chetri.
With the majority of possession throughout the half, the South Africans maintained their authority, doubling their lead through striker Thornton McDade, who received the ball from Tim Drummond after good work and a solid build-up from the back.
India hit back after a penalty corner chance was saved by the SA defensive runners, only to fall to Danish Mujtaba, who slotted home past keeper Jacques le Roux from close range.
Le Roux enjoyed a strong first period, making vital saves as South Africa went into the break leading 2-1.
They came out in the second half looking to continue their impressive display in the first, but were made to defend early on, as India earned their second penalty corner five minutes into the half.
Sandeep Singh made no mistake as he shot into the bottom corner to level the game at 2-2.
South Africa seemed certain to be awarded their first penalty corner of the match after 46 minutes, but a dubious decision by the Spanish referee left them aggrieved.
They nonetheless regained the lead just four minutes later as Julian Hykes found Norris-Jones from a turn-over in his own area, with Norris-Jones making a sublime run over the halfway line.
He beat three markers and drilled home past Chetri, who was beaten at his near-post.
Le Roux continued his fine form and enjoyed another solid half, making a diving save to his right from an Indian penalty corner to keep the visitors ahead with 17 minutes to play.
Norris-Jones was back into the action 10 minutes later as he made yet another piercing run into the Indian area and earned South Africa's only penalty corner of the match, courtesy of a swinging India stick, which drag-flick specialist Justin Reid-Ross dispatched in typical fashion to hand the South Africans a two-goal cushion.
India managed to have the last say, as SK Uthappa scored four minutes from time after receiving a cross-ball which popped up and was put away, though the Indians were left trailing by one.