SA and India in emotion-charged draw

2010-03-09 00:00

SOUTH Africa came agonisingly close to making history at an emotion-charged National Hockey Stadium in Delhi last night.

A pumped-up SA were five minutes away from a dramatic World Cup victory when India’s Shivendra Singh made it 3-3 after finishing superbly following a goalmouth scramble.

Victory in what was a gripping encounter would have left SA in fourth place in Pool B, qualifying man of the match, SA captain Austin Smith’s men for the seventh-place play-off. World number 13 SA have never finished higher than 10th.

Nevertheless, the gutsy draw with 12th-ranked India ensures SA will play for ninth place on Friday, likely against eighth-ranked New Zealand, and the opportunity for their best-ever World Cup placing.

And the 3-3 scoreline ultimately fulfils Sascoc’s (SA Sports Congress and Olympic Committee) requirements of a top-five finish among the seven Commonwealth Games countries at the World Cup, as SA cannot finish lower than fifth, with Australia, England, India and possibly New Zealand ending above them.

Pakistan and Canada will play for 11th spot in Delhi.

And whatever that ninth/10th place result may be, SA are guaranteed to move up at least three places to reach world hockey’s top 10.

SA opened the scoring in the eighth minute last night when great work initiated by striker Ian Haley eventually saw strike partner Lloyd Norris-Jones slicing through India’s defenders before unleashing a backboard-breaker that left goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza rooted to the spot.

India equalised midway through the first half when a turnover enabled Sarvjanit Singh to make no mistake.

With the roar from the vociferous crowd rising every time India made headway, the momentum shifted and regular raids down the left wing saw the outstanding Shivendra set up ­Diwakar following a penalty corner that went wrong, and the goal gave the home country a 2-1 lead 11 minutes from half-time.

It could well have been the men’s version of hit hockey movie Chak de India (Go India) about the said country’s women’s squad, such was the enthusiasm of the home side’s supporters at their team’s success, but SA weren’t done yet

Three minutes after the changeover, a brilliant turn and dribble in minimal space up the left-hand baseline by striker Marvin Harper earned his team a PC, and Justin Reid-Ross eventually scored after a clever pass from the visually aware Haley.

A bit later, high drama unfolded in what was a two-goal turnaround when Harper correctly appealed for a PC only to be ignored by Scottish umpire and birthday boy Ged Curran, and India netted a beauty on the fast break straight after.

The SA players appealed in the most passionate manner possible and after much uncertainty and discussion, the decision on South Africa’s original PC claim was given the green light by another Scot, TV umpire Andy Mair.

And from that PC, Smith slapped Gareth Carr’s slip-left high into the net to give the ecstatic SA team and their small band of fans a 3-2 lead.

Stung by the outcome, India swarmed forward in wave after wave of free-flowing forays into enemy territory, and despite a desperate SA appeal against a PC that was awarded by Dutch umpire Roel van Eert, Shivendra netted the third and final equaliser to round up what was, on balance, a reasonably fair outcome of a wonderful advert for hockey.

 

Results: Australia 2 Pakistan 1; Spain 2 England 0; SA (1) 3 (Lloyd Norris-Jones, Justin Reid-Ross, Austin Smith) India (2) 3 (Sarvjanit Singh, Diwakar, Shivendra Singh).

Final Pool B log: all played 5 (goal difference, points): 1. Australia (+17GD, 12 pts); 2. England (+5GD, 12 pts); 3. Spain (+4GD, 9 pts); 4. India (-4GD, 4 pts); 5. South Africa (-15GD, 4 pts); 6. Pakistan (-7GD, 3 pts).

Tuesday’s Pool A fixtures: Germany vs New Zealand; Netherlands vs South Korea; Canada vs Argentina.

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