SA jolt for Indian eves

 South Africa outclassed a jaded India 5-2 and stormed into the final of the women’s hockey Oly­mpic Qualifiers at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium here on Wednesday.

TEAM WORK South Africa’s Sulette Damons celebrates with team-mate Nicolene Terblanche (20) after scoring against India in the Olympic Qualifiers onWednesday.

India, who till Tuesday were the table toppers with seven points and a better goal difference, now languish in third place behind South Africa (10) and Italy (8) after four matches. India face a must-win situation against Italy in their last league tie to join South Africa in the final.

The Proteas have every reason to be proud of their victory against their only serious rivals in the pool. The team was denied a ticket to London by their Olympic Committee despite winning a qualifying event in Africa, and asked to prove themselves against better opponents.  They did it this day, and quite thoroughly, even though it is only a job half done.

The South Africans were aggressive, snappy and with their tight marking closed the gaps in the field. Their strikers made a mockery of a feeble India defence and their midfield stifled some good Indian moves. The Indians were reduced to doing the catch-up and in the end were outpaced and outskilled.

The visitors were propelled by Dirkie Chamberlaine’s treble (12th minute, 32nd, 58th) and Sulette Damon’s brace (53rd, 67th). For India, skipper Asunta Lakra (23rd) and Soundarya Yendala (52nd) bridged the gap.

The South Africans were put ahead through their third penalty corner conversion. Kate Woods took the strike but India goalkeeper rushed ahead to block it. Chamberlain the struck from the goalmouth after a pass from Kathleen Taylor on the rebound.

India tried hard to enter the circle but the Protean defence was stout. They, however, equalised through their third penalty corner with Lakra sounding the board with a direct flick. It was India’s lone conversion out of six chances. India narrowly escaped after Lauren Penny missed from close range and trailed 1-2 at half time.

The Indian girls tried to play attacking hockey in the second half and were soon awarded a penalty corner. They missed it but Soundarya, swiftly picking up a loose ball, found the back of the net.

The Indians had no time to reflect on the equaliser when Damons, in an immediate counter-attack, raced into the circle and on getting a pass from the left, pushed the ball in with a reverse flick.

As the Indians should signs of resignation, South Africa scored two quick late goals through Chamberlain and Sulette to seal the contest.

In other matches, Italy beat Ukraine 2-1 and Canada beat Poland 1-0.

Results: South Africa: 5 (Dirkie Chamberlaine 12th, 32nd, 58th, Sulette Damon 53rd, 67th) bt India: 2 (Asunta Lakra 23rd, Soundarya Yendala 52nd); Italy: 2 (Alessia Dorian Padalino 5th, Giulian Ruggieri 69th) bt Ukraine: 1 (Bohdan Sadova 39th); Canada: 1 (Stephanie Jameson 65th) bt Poland: 0.

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