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SA off to winnning start
- Updated: February 18, 2012
The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team’s final bid to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games in London is up and running after they won the Olympic Qualifier Tournament’s opening match 2-1 against Poland at the National Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.
Jon Cook reports that Kate Woods netted the first goal four minutes after half-time before Magdalena Zagajska replied for Poland from the re-start. The winner came from world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee with 17 minutes left, her 232nd goal in 235 Test matches.
Not long after half-time, SA’s first goal came about after striker Dirkie Chamberlain had won her side’s third penalty corner, which was nailed home by Woods. Poland struck back immediately with Zagajska’s goal from field play before SA captain Marsha Marescia provided the winning assist to Coetzee.
SA had dominated the first half with 14 meaningful entries into the strike zone to Poland’s five, but neither side was able to open the scoring.
The second half was further proof of SA’s superior penetration with 17 potential goal opportunities to Poland’s four.
Among their 31 potential goal chances in the match, SA earned five penalty corners to Poland’s one. Poland goalkeeper Marta Kucharska was in inspirational form, keeping her outclassed┬á team in the game with half-a-dozen top saves, while the attacking Natalia Wisniewska, voted the Player of the Match, was always a threat up front.
SA generally relayed the ball with confidence and accuracy around the pitch but it was always a challenge to penetrate the maze of Polish bodies intent on blocking the ball and breaking down anything constructive.
There were a number of significant moments among SA’s several excellent goalscoring opportunities.
In the last five minutes Jade Mayne displayed great stickwork as SA came agonisingly close to scoring a third goal before the industrious player’s deflection from Kathleen Taylor’s pass was another close call for Poland.
In the third minute a quick free-hit by left half Lesle-Ann George found Pietie Coetzee, who got in a shot that was repelled by the Poles. Three minutes later, another quick free-hit from Dirkie Chamberlain set Coetzee up with a golden opportunity, but umpire Claire Adenot of France blew her whistle too soon, negating any advantage for South Africa.
Two more SA shots at goal followed before Poland made their first strike-zone entry in the 10th and the dangerous Wisniewska had two shots with a minute in between, goalkeeper Mariette Rix up to the challenge.
Next up, SA play Ukraine at 10.30am SA time on Sunday. South Africa must win this tournament to secure a spot at the Olympics in London.