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Six of the best as South Africa maul Malaysia at World Cup
- Updated: June 13, 2014
A stunning hat-trick between the 43rd and 48th minutes by South Africa drag-flick king Justin Reid-Ross ensured that the men in green and gold consigned Malaysia to 12th and last place during Hockey World Cup 2014 at the splendid Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Holland on Thursday.
SA won 6-2 after trailing 1-0 at half-time, the goals going to Reid-Ross (3), Lloyd Norris-Jones, outstanding captain Austin Smith and Pierre de Voux, while Firhan Ashari in the first half and a superb Shahrun Abdulla shot 49 seconds from the final whistle made up the Malaysian tally, writes Jon Cook.
Reid-Ross, who had an inspired match in all departments, both on attack and in defence, sent the white nut flying past hapless Malaysia goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam from the penalty spot in the 43rd, delivered a drag-flick at a fearsome speed that nearly took the keeper’s head off two minutes later and nailed down another penalty corner in the 48th minute that threatened to break the back of the net.
SA’s goal number four was fittingly scored by the fleet-footed striker Norris-Jones, who took advantage of Smith’s slide-rule through pass, broke into the 23-metre area before entering the strike zone and smashing the ball past an advancing Subramiam, who actually had a reasonable tournament, making some breathtaking saves. But in this match he was the victim. This in the face of extreme pressure caused by a clumsy defence whose members too often used their bodies to bump the South Africans off the ball.
The numerous penalty corners the SA strikers were able to win in the second half reflected the pressure the frontrunners put the Malaysian defence under after the changeover, as the match took a dramatic turn in the South Africans’ favour.
To add insult to injury, Smith also nailed down a superb PC drag-flick goal in the 64th minute, while striker Pierre de Voux completed the rout one minute from the final whistle.
Yet the first half reflected much of South Africa’s woes in their Group matches, the lack of cohesion largely due to just two weeks together.
World number 12 SA and world 13 Malaysia have a history of close tussles in recent years and the full-time professional, well-paid Malaysians enjoy a national programme while the men in green and gold have no such advantages.
Rassie Pieterse in the goals was instrumental in keeping SA in the game when things weren’t going their way but there was little he could do in the 26th minute when Malaysia forward Firhan Ashari exhibited excellent close control to evade defenders in the strike zone and slip the ball past the keeper (1-0).
With five minutes to the break, Fitri Saari forced a PC and Pieterse was on hand to make an acrobatic stick-save out to his right.
Defender Rhett Halkett also had a very good game ÔÇô and not just as a stopper of attacks ÔÇô several of his passes creating chances for his team-mates while SA midfielder and vice-captain Wade Paton, a player who does the unfashionable hard graft that allows others to shine, drew praise from head coach Fabian Gregory for soldiering on during the tournament despite debilitating injury.
Meanwhile, the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team meet an old foe when they take on world No9 Japan in the play-off for ninth place at 10am on Friday.
The Japanese women somewhat controversially edged SA in the equivalent match at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the girls in green and gold will be determined to turn the tables this time round and end World Cup 2014 on a high, particularly as the Investec Cup looms in London mid-July as well as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow towards the end of next month.
Picture: GRANT TREEBY