Proteas lose 7-4 | SASCOC - SASCOC

Proteas lose 7-4

Eight-time Olympic Games gold medallists India beat an incredibly committed and brave South Africa 7-4 after leading 3-1 at half-time in the Champions Challenge match at Randburg Hockey Stadium on Sunday.

This exceptional exhibition of hockey drama and skill had the crowd on the edge of their seats throughout as top-class goalkeeper saves and exhilarating goals came thick and fast.

SA scored through Justin Reid-Ross, Marvin Harper, Miguel da Graca and Tim Drummond while India’s seven of the best came from Sardar Singh, Sandeep Singh (2), Tushar Khandker, S.V. Sunil (2) and R.P. Singh.

After 40 seconds SA had a great chance after Justin Reid-Ross’s right-left diagonal overhead found Ian Haley but the striker lost control of the ball. Then Danish Mujtaba hit the post, confirming SA captain Austin Smith’s prediction that the game would have goalmouth action galore.

In the seventh minute Haley made amends by winning the first penalty corner (PC) and Reid-Ross beat the keeper after a neat variation (1-0).

Alert SA keeper Brendon Botes was then called on to make two saves in quick succession.

Sandeep Singh drew the scores level from a PC five minutes later and at 1-1 India’s pace down the flanks and close control was beginning to count. With nine to half-time Miguel da Graca won SA’s second PC and a Reid-Ross rocket was palmed over the crossbar by keeper P.R. Sreejesh but with six left Shivendra Singh won a turnover and Sardar Singh put India in front (2-1).

Just before half-time Thornton McDade and Haley came close before India won their second PC after another dangerous run down the left and Sandeep Singh made it 3-1 with 25 seconds left on the clock.

Soon after the re-start a superb Reid-Ross pass found Marvin harper┬á in the strike┬á zone but India survived until Lloyd Norris-Jones made a superb run down the right and Harper made no mistake from the pass (3-2). A minute later the on-fire Norris-Jones brought a save from the keeper, but India’s Tushar Khandker restored the two-goal margin soon after (4-2).

Gareth Carr was then struck a fearful blow to the forehead, accidentaly, and left the pitch with the blood streaming. SA spirits were restored when SA Player of the Year Taine Paton cracked a stunning cross with little space to work with on the right-hand baseline and Miguel da Graca slid it home (4-3). Then it was McDade’s turn to gather and thread a visionary pass to Tim Drummond who dived full-length to steer in the equaliser (4-4).

Midway, SA came agonisingly close from a PC variation and India won a turnover from which S.V. Sunil smashed past Botes (5-4).┬áThen Reid-Ross brought a PC save from the keeper before Botes saved at the other end. Wade Paton made a great run and pass but Haley’s shot was blocked before the latter won another PC, and then another, from which Lloyd Madsen’s shot was turned away for a long corner following the initial play.

But Shivendra Singh was adjudged by Australian umpire Tim Pullman to have brought down Shivendra Singh in the circle and R.P. Singh made no mistake from the penalty spot (6-4). And with three left S.V. Sunil smashed in a PC rebound to make the game safe (7-4).

Madsen received an accidental but heavy blow to the head with seconds left and it summed up a clean but exceptionally competitive match in which no favours were asked or given.

Earlier Sunday, tournament favourites Argentina shaded Canada 3-2, Malaysia drew 2-2 with Japan and Belgium beat Poland 7-3.

Monday is a rest day before SA meet London 2012 Olympic Games qualifiers Belgium at 5pm Tuesday (live on SuperSport) and this will be another massive test.

Day 1: Canada 3 Malaysia 1; Argentina 2 Japan 2; India 3 Belgium 3, SA 3 Poland 1
Day 2: Argentina 3 Canada 2; Japan 2 Malaysia 2; Belgium 7 Poland 3; India 7 South Africa 4