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SA men’s hockey side miss out on bronze play-off
- Updated: March 23, 2014
The South Africa men’s hockey team put up a brave fight on Saturday night in the final round-robin match at the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia but went down 5-2 to South Korea.
South Africa needed at least a point to qualify for Sunday’s bronze medal match but it was not to be as world No7 South Korea fought hard to win after leading 2-1 at half-time.
SA now play Canada, who they edged in the round-robin phase, for fifth place on Sunday.
The knowledge that Australia had beaten a disappointing Malaysia 6-2 in front of a packed house of singing, chanting home fans meant that South Korea needed to beat SA by four clear goals to reach Sunday’s final ÔÇô a bridge too far against the determined Africans.
Both Malaysia and Korea ended on the same goal difference and log points, but the host country had scored 17 goals in the round-robin phase to Korea’s 14 ÔÇô and that was the clincher.
SA drew much praise from the Malaysian fans, who had stayed on in the hope that the men in green and gold would do their country a favour. Malaysia now meet world number one Australia in Sunday’s final (2.30pm SA time, live on SuperSport 6).
South Africa’s Jonty Robinson (ailment) did not play but is likely to be fit for Sunday. The London 2012 Olympian’s absence meaning SA had one less rolling sub on the bench.
Without actually creating tangible goalshot opportunities, Korea controlled much of the early territory and possession but Dylan Swanepoel and then Rhett Halkett made telling 60-metre passes from deep defence that weren’t capitalised on by the high-hanging SA forwards.
However, the game exploded in the 18th minute when Ignatuis Malgraff, pictured right,┬á collected a ball, turned at pace to outwit the Korean defence by running an intelligent line before nailing the ball past keeper Ho Myung Lee (1-0).
With penalty corners a potent Korean weapon, SA could ill-afford to continue the trend of leaking too many soft opportunities. But Korea drew level in the 22nd minute via a textbook PC variation that saw the outstretched stick of Man Jae Jung on the end of it (1-1).
And in the 26th it was Moon Kweon Kang who made no mistake from a PC rebound after a fine initial save by SA keeper and Player of the Match Rassie Pieterse for Korea to go 2-1 up.
Near the end of the half, Malgraff made another entry into the strike zone, as did Clint Panther, but their considerable skill in getting there earned no reward.
Soon after the changeover SA withstood consecutive Korean PCs including one excellent glove save from Pieterse but a third soon after (42nd minute) saw a superb variation that was completed by Hye Sung Hyun (3-1).
SA won their first PC in the 45th but it proved fruitless and Korea broke fast to get one at the other end, Jin Byung Jeon hitting the post before firing the next one wide.
In a thrilling final 25 minutes opportunities came and went at both ends, both sides seeking different outcomes ÔÇô SA at least a draw and Korea victory by four clear goals ÔÇô and the Asians had to wait until the 68th to get one, a Moon Kyu Kang field goal.
But SA hit back from the re-start and Brandon Panther made it 4-2 with a fine effort in the 69th. In a bid to find the two goals needed for the much-needed draw, SA subbed Pieterse with a field player.
Jong Hyun Jang got Korea’s fifth goal with 20 seconds left (70th) but in the end they needed six to reach the final.
Picture: Tim Myers