Celia Evans ensured the first points of the tournament for the South African women’s hockey team at the World League Semi Final when they drew 1-1 on a hot afternoon in Valencia, Spain on Sunday.
After going down 4-1 to both Ireland and the United States, SA were desperate to make amends.
Jon Cook reports that the breakthrough came in the 37th minute from a well-worked penalty corner variation that saw Evans apply the finishing touch.
But Uruguay equalised in the 58th, just two minutes from full-time, when Manuela Vilar del Valle made the most of what had been a disputed PC award.
For the world’s 29th-ranked Uruguayans the 1-1 draw was a moral victory against a team ranked 18 places above them. In a worst-case scenario, an SA defeat by more than a five-goal margin in Tuesday’s 5pm (SuperSport 7) final Pool B clash with Germany would end their quarter-final hopes and favour Uruguay.
The Uruguayans threw everything into this, their last opportunity to reach the quarter-finals, knowing that with their inferior goal difference of five compared to South Africa, nothing less than victory would suffice.
A draw for SA would probably be enough to ensure a quarter-final berth on Thursday, provided they don’t self-destruct against the in-form Germans on Tuesday.
SA dominated, but struggled to turn that advantage into goal shots while the Uruguayans made more from a lesser number of chances.
Florencia Norbis drove into the strike zone in the second minute and got off a shot that SA keeper Sanani Mangisa saved comfortably. It was a good start for the South Americans and they picked off turnovers when SA went down the middle.
In the 19th, SA’s Shelley Russell got into a scoring position but the in-form Agustine Nieto made a superb defensive intervention. Then Jade Mayne showed her 3D skills in making inroads before firing off a shot the keeper did exceptionally well to deflect away. SA continued to dominate statistically, but it was Uruguay who won three PCs before half-time.
After the teams changed ends and went into the third quarter, Illse Davids was unlucky not to earn a PC before Dirkie Chamberlain, who had scored against the US on Saturday, made a threatening run, but a revitalised SA continued to battle in making goal shots.
At the other end Mangisa made a double save, both sides throwing everything into this vital match, before Bernie Coston took advantage of Terblanche’s pass to win the girls in green and gold’s first PC. An accurate, well-synchronised PC variation to the left from Lisa Deetlefs to Chamberlain saw corner injector and final receiver Evans deflect the ball between the posts and SA were 1-0 up after 37 minutes.
Both sides survived a couple of awkward moments in defence but SA were getting stronger, playing with more intent and assurance as the teams went into the fourth and final quarter. In the 47th Russell fed Chamberlain, whose snap-shot was saved before Mangisa made a fine stop from Soledad Villar.
After SA’s second PC, persistence from Davids set up Chamberlain but outstanding defender Federica Kempner blocked the shot. Kempner’s impressive physicality was not enough to stop Chamberlain winning a third PC but Uruguay survived the threat. With two minutes left Uruguay won a disputed, fifth, PC and the SA defence stood back to give Vilar del Valle all the time necessary to nail down the equaliser in the 58th minute (1-1).
It was Uruguay’s fourth and last Pool B match, having earlier lost 8-0 to world No6 Germany, 2-0 to world No5 USA and 3-2 to world No14 Ireland.
Picture of Shelley Russel of South Africa being tackled by Uruguay’s Kaisuami Dall’Orso courtesy of Getty Images