South Africa became the first team in the women segment of the Olympic qualifiers to book their place in the final of the tournament after a clinical 5-2 victory over India in their league match on Wednesday. If there were complaints about Indias finishing and PC conversions so far,they would seem petty compared to the stunning unraveling of Indias defense in the second half of the game,that will now be another headache for the team to resolve ahead of a must-win against Italy on Friday.
Few would have predicted the lopsided nature of the result in the 53rd minute. Down 2-1 at halfway,Soundarya Yendala was down on her knees as she found the perfect deflection on a penalty corner for the equaliser. The team went into a huddle as the home fans began chanting. But barely had the huddle broken up than South Africa countered to catch the Indians napping. Sulette Damons received the perfect defense splitting pass from the left flank. The stranded defence looked on as Damons reverse stick pat trickled into the back of the net. Evenly poised at that stage after goals from Dirkie Chamberlain in the 13th and 32nd minutes had been responded to by Asunta Lakra in the 23rd minute and then the Yendala effort after half time,the match had turned decisively in South Africas favour.
I didnt expect them to score as quickly as they did. After the goal,I had already brought in additional defenders but did not get a chance to send them in, said a sullen CR Kumar. The coach decided to do away with the defenders and urged the the midfield,which had played conservatively until then,to ventured out for the equaliser. It was exactly what South Africa were expecting. Leaving Dirkie Chamberlain and Damons standing free,ahead of the last line of Indian defense,they packed their own half making it impassable. Indias midfield received almost no space while the flanks gave no pass of note in the final quarter. In the 58th minute,the one goal advantage became two. Nicolene Terblanche fired in a cross from 25 yards that missed everything but the tip of Chamberlains outstretched stick before hurtling into goal.
Increasingly desperate,the Indians surged forward more out of hope than plan,a tactic that didnt work. The humiliation was complete three minutes from time when Kathleen Taylors pass found an unmarked Damons who,with time to spare,casually got past the keeper to score.
We wont give them as much space next time, said coach Kumar after the match. They played a consistently fast paced game which we were unable to match. The next time around we will close their wings quickly and stay cautious early on, he said.
Other results: Italy bt Ukraine 2-1; Canada bt Poland 1-0