SA women bag first tour win
Catalunya - The South African women's hockey team picked up the first win of their European tour with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Catalunya, Spain's strongest regional team, on Sunday.
Catalunya fielded eight national players, but a second-half goal from Sulette Damons clinched the win for the tourists in an entertaining game at the picturesque CD Terrassa Sports Club.
South Africa, who lost 2-0 in a two-match series against Spain earlier in the week, welcomed back superstar Pietie Coetzee who flew in from Johannesburg on Friday.
Coetzee had a great chance in the third minute after a superb build-up from Tarryn Bright and Lesley-Ann George but her shot from the edge of the strike zone shaved the wrong side of the post.
In the ninth minute, Marta Fabregas' shot almost went in off a South African stick, and three minutes later Damons was forced to leave the field after a blow to the finger.
Jen Wilson had half a chance at what would have been a spectacular deflection goal, and then missed another opportunity soon after as South Africa continued to find holes in the home side's defence.
Damons returned to the field and outstripped the defence, only to see another shot go wide of the far post.
Seven minutes from half-time, the South Africans were turned over in their defensive third and conceded two penalty corners in succession. The second was deflected wide by the stick of diving goalkeeper Mariette Rix.
Catalunya started building momentum as the tourists began to break down.
Rix brought off a superb save to her right from Maria Romagosa's strong shot and the teams went into the break all square.
The South Africans were made to fight hard in the second half as Catalunya came close to scoring during a goalmouth melee.
In the 41st minute the hosts earned the first of three consecutive penalty corners, but South Africa managed to keep them out.
South African forward Kathleen Taylor forced a great stick save from Catalunya keeper Meritxell Grau but the stopper had no chance in the 46th when Nicolene Terblanche, Coetzee and Shelley Russell contributed to Damon's simple tap-in for the lone goal of the match.
South Africa's number two keeper, Sanani Mangisa, replaced Rix and comfortably held off the busy Romagosa in the Spaniard's attempt to find the equaliser.
The home side also replaced their keeper with Isabel Barguno with 15 minutes left and Wilson blasted one into net, but the Spanish umpires were not interested.
In the 61st minute, Catalunya were awarded their seventh penalty corner but Mangisa was again on hand to keep the ball out.
Three minutes from time Coetzee forced a save from Barguno and a pass by Taylor saw a deflection from Wilson flash wide of the near post.
South Africa will face the Netherlands in a two-match Test series in Amsterdam on Tuesday and Wednesday.