The South Africa men’s hockey team did most things right except for scoring and the outcome was a 2-0 win for a dogged Canada in the play-off for fifth and sixth places at the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia on Sunday.
SA were left to reflect on a host of missed goalscoring opportunities while it was the Canadians who made the most of theirs, Adam Froese and Taylor Curran striking in the 62nd and 66th minutes respectively. Four days ago it was SA who had won the round-robin match 3-2 against their fellow Commonwealth Games country.
Welcoming the return of the fit-again London 2012 Olympian Jonty Robinson on the right, captain Wade Paton’s South Africans began at a fast pace, immediately making inroads into the attacking third, the hugely talented Ignatuis Malgraff seemingly eliminating defenders at will with his sublime skills on the ball.
Canada looked to make use of the aerial pass from deep, a trademark of their tournament, and they came back into the game at stages in the first half but the SA defence stood firm, Rhett Halkett a key player.
Taking their free-hits quickly, SA frequently had Canada under pressure and a superb one-two between Brandon Panther and Tim Drummond saw the rangy Panther get in a shot that keeper Antoni Kindler kept out.
In the 22nd minute Owen Mvimbi fed Panther, who forced the first penalty corner, but it amounted to nothing. Promising attacks that saw a Canada stick get in the way in the strike zone kept South Africa from scoring but a neat piece of play three minutes from half-time saw Julian Hykes get into position to fire a shot at Kindler, which the keeper turned away for a long corner. Then a Mvimbi backhand slid past the far post before a Hykes snapshot flew high over the crossbar.
SA’s Julian Hykes in the thick of the action on Sunday. Picture: Tim Myers
Turning around at 0-0, South Africa replaced Pieterse with number two keeper Jacques le Roux and Canadian reserve shot stopper David Carter came on for Kindler.
Much of the action played out in the North Americans’ goalmouth with the Africans enjoying a number of chances, one being an excellent Clint Panther reverse-stick effort from under the muscular midfielder’s shoulder that came agonisingly close.
Halkett made two crucial tackles to stem rare Canada sorties but Keegan Pereira should have made more of a very good chance for the red shirts. The North Americans were eventually rewarded for their endeavour by winning their first PC with 15 minutes left, but the opportunity wasn’t capitalised on.
Another PC followed three minutes later and Le Roux saved consecutive shots from Canada skipper Scott Tupper. Enjoying a new lease on life Canada won a third PC with nine minutes left and Tupper’s pass back to the corner injector was converted at the near post by Player of the Match Froese for 1-0 after 62 minutes.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿SA earned two consecutive PCs after the re-start, but neither reaped reward and Canada made it 2-0 just four minutes from the end (66th minute) when Curran’s shot evaded the defence.