It’s, oh, so close, as SA push for ma­jor up­set

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

THE South African women’s hockey team came painstak­ingly close to caus­ing a ma­jor up­set at the World League Hockey League semi-fi­nals at the Wits Hockey Club when they took an early lead over Ar­gentina be­fore go­ing down three goals to one.

The 13th ranked Proteas looked rather shell-shocked dur­ing the open­ing salvos of the match but got their tails up go­ing into the half-time break with a 1-0 ad­van­tage.

Soak­ing up the early pres­sure from the world No 3 side, South Africa’s de­fence kept the op­po­si­tion out of the box and played them­selves into con­tention. They man­aged to get through the first quar­ter un­scathed be­fore they scored cour­tesy of a Bernie Cos­ton goal in the 28th minute.

The South Amer­i­cans went into the break frus­trated af­ter they could not con­vert the pres­sure they ex­erted in the first half. By the end of the first 30 min­utes, they had made five shots at goal, com­pared to South Africa’s two. They also made 20 cir­cle pen­e­tra­tions to 10 with noth­ing to show for their ef­forts.

While South Africa were grow­ing in con­fi­dence, Ar­gentina con­tin­ued to ap­ply goal-box pres­sure with the Proteas de­fence hold­ing firm.

The match swung in Ar­gentina’s favour when they were awarded a penalty in the 41st minute with Noel Bar­rionuevo oblig­ing to level the scores.

Em­bold­ened by the goal, Ar­gentina upped the ante as they played with greater com­po­sure, leav­ing South Africa mostly on the de­fen­sive for the rest of the match.

The Ar­gen­tines showed their class and ex­pe­ri­ence at the high­est level by adding two more goals to the score­line cour­tesy of cap­tain Del­fina Merino and Floren­cia Habif to seal the vic­tory.

The de­feat leaves South Africa in fourth place, one point ahead of Chile, who they will face to­mor­row in a cru­cial match to re­main in con­tention for a quar­ter-fi­nals berth.

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