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SA stay on track
- Updated: February 21, 2012
Despite resting world-leading goalscorer Piete Coetzee, the unbeaten Investec South Africa women’s hockey team drew 1-1 with Italy after trailing 1-0 at half-time in the Olympic Qualifier Tournament at New Delhi’s National Stadium Tuesday.
Jon Cook writes that SA left out ace penalty corner drag-flicker Coetzee as a precaution, the superstar striker endeavouring to get over a cold.
As early as the fourth minute, the tournament’s leading goalscorer, Alessia Padalino scored from the first penalty corner to take her tally to five after three matches. But five minutes into the second half, Lauren Penny, Tarryn Bright and Kathleen Taylor combined in a slick move in the attacking third for Penny to net a well-deserved equaliser with a slap-shot from inside the six-yard box that bulged the net (1-1).
SA dominated the 70 minutes and earned 12 penalty corners to Italy’s eight, Kate Woods hitting the post once. Woods also ÔÇ£scoredÔÇØ twice but her PC strikes were too high from the first shot.
In the second quarter, SA peppered the Italian goal with shots at goal but somehow the Europeans weathered the storm.
Immediately after half-time Penny won SA’s seventh PC and goalkeeper Roberta Lilliu, deservedly Player of the Match for keeping Italy in the game, made another fine save. Then Penny and Dirkie Chamberlain combined for a great chance but again the determined Italians survived.
On the markedly fewer occasions that Italy did threaten, Lenise Marais and captain Marsha Marescia made some crucial interventions in defence. Aldana Lovagnini had a good chance on the edge of the strike zone after Penny’s goal but struck wide of the far post. A fifth Italy PC came and went before SA twice came agonisingly close in the six-yard box with 15 minutes left.
Umpire Chieko Soma of Japan awarded SA’s eighth, ninth and 10th PCs in quick succession but goalkeeper Lilliu was in top form. Jade Mayne and Chamberlain’s shots were somehow repelled by the desperate Italian defence. SA won their 11th PC and Woods nailed it past the keeper but the shot cannoned off the post. A 12th PC followed but Mayne and Kim Hubach’s shots ÔÇô against all odds ÔÇô were unable to cross the goalline.
With 30 seconds left the most unlikely of victories became a possibility as Padalino won the Italians’ sixth PC, and the final hooter had sounded when the seventh and eighth hotly disputed penalty corners came the Europeans’ way. But SA keeper Mariette Rix was up to the challenge with a couple of excellent saves under huge pressure.
Ranked 12th in the world, South Africa now have seven points from three matches while Italy are on five. Ukraine, who beat Canada 5-1 in the earlier game, are on four points and Canada on one point. India (four points from two matches) tackle Poland (zero points) in Tuesday’s late game.
On Wednesday, South Africa face their biggest rivals, world No13 India in a match that both sides need to win.
After Thursday’s rest day, SA conclude the league phase on Friday when they tackle Canada. The two leading teams will then face-off┬á in Saturday’s final (2.30pm SA time) with the solitary and all important place at the London 2012 Olympic Games at stake.