SA hockey men lose to Pakistan

2009-12-12 00:00

THE South African men’s hockey team’s chances of reaching the semi-finals at the Champions Challenge in Salta, Argentina were dealt a crushing blow on Thursday night (SA time) when they were beaten 4-1 by world number sevens Pakistan after the score was deadlocked 1-1 at the break.

Pakistan’s Umar Butta had an early opportunity, but his strong shot was brilliantly saved by SA goalkeeper Brendon Botes.

South Africa were reduced to 10 men after a yellow card to Jonty Robinson, and at their third penalty corner Pakistan’s Sohail Abbas netted the opening goal.

Back to full strength, SA had to score to keep their semi-final chances alive and pushed forward with intent. A penalty corner went awry before sharp striker Lloyd Norris-Jones sent his side into raptures just before half-time with an effort from the top of the circle that beat Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar all ends up.

After the interval, SA’s option of pressing high cut out the Pakistani midfield, forcing the Asians to look for speculative, long balls to the ever-dangerous Shakeel Abbasi.

As the tension heightened, both teams were dished out yellow card sin-bins by the umpires and 14 minutes after half-time Abbasi nosed Pakistan in front with a fine field goal. Soon after, Haseem Khan gave Pakistan a two-goal cushion before goal number four from Akhtar Ali put the match beyond South Africa’s grasp.

Had world 15th-ranked SA won at the Popeye Club, they would have been down to meet India in today’s late semi-final. Instead, they will now meet Belgium in today’s non-medal round match in the fifth to eighth place playoffs, with the final classification matches in this eight country tournament tomorrow.

In their earlier Pool B matches, SA were beaten 6-2 by world number 10s Argentina and beat 11th-ranked Canada 4-1.

Pakistan will take on ninth-ranked India and Argentina meet eighth-ranked New Zealand in today’s last-four clashes.

The tournament features countries ranked outside the world top six, and victory means qualification for the following year’s elite (world top six) Champions Trophy.

In the other matches on Thursday, Canada beat Argentina 3-2, India outlasted Belgium 4-2 and China held New Zealand’s Black Sticks 2-2.

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