India hammer South Africa 5-1, claim FIH Series Finals title
India registered a comfortable 5-1 victory in the final against South Africa to claim the top spot in the competition.Updated: Jun 15, 2019 22:49 IST
The last time India had lost to South Africa was at the 2012 London Olympics, the Africans relegating the eight-time champions to 12th and last position with a battling 3-2 win. Since then, India had beaten South Africa twice, 5-0 at the 2018 World Cup at the same Kalinga Stadium and 5-2 at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The hosts were thus expected to register a comprehensive victory in the summit clash of the FIH Men’s Series Finals hockey tournament here on Saturday. Both teams had already achieved the target they had set off for, clinching a berth in the Olympic qualifying tournament to be held later this year by reaching the title clash here.
Their mission accomplished, India registered a comfortable 5-1 victory in the final against South Africa to claim the top spot in the competition. Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar struck a brace each while Vivek Sagar Prasad slotted home the fourth goal. For South Africa, Richard Pautz scored the lone consolation in the 53rd minute, off a penalty corner deflection.
It was a neat performance from India—they were not expected to be stretched by their opponents here as all of them were ranked quite lower. And apart from a 3-1 struggle against Poland in which they missed a bagful of chances and allowed their opponents a few attempts at their goal, India played in keeping with their ranking and demolished their rivals.
India stepped onto the turf with purpose and dominated the first half, surging ahead 3-0 by scoring twice in the first quarter and once in the second. That virtually killed whatever fight South Africa had, and though they did get some chances, they failed to capitalise.
The hosts earned a penalty corner off their first attack in the second minute and Varun Kumar slotted home a low drag flick to the left of diving goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse. They had a couple of more chances but couldn’t capitalise as both Akashdeep and Vivek Prasad missed. But they scored off their second penalty corner, Harmanpreet Singh producing a powerful flick to the right of Pieterse in the 11th minute.
India established midfield superiority early to dominate possession in the first half. They easily breached the South African defence but the forwards didn’t capitalise. They also managed just two penalty corners in 30 minutes.
South Africa managed to break the shackles and launch couple of attacks, but forward Ngobile Ntuli could not convert a chance created by Rayan Julius midway through the second quarter.
India made it 3-0 in the 25th minute when they got a penalty stroke after Birendra Lakra was stick-checked when he was about to take a shot at goal. Harmanpreet converted the stroke.
Vivek Prasad then capitalised on a superb attack by Mandeep Singh, who weaved past a couple of defenders in the circle and passed to Vivek, who powered home a reverse hit, making it 4-0.
Kenta Tanaka scored twice in 40 seconds to seal Japan’s thrilling 4-2 win against United States in the classification match for third place. Japan led 2-1 with one minute and 16 seconds remaining for the long hooter when USA equalised off their sixth penalty corner. Drag-flicker Aki Kaeppeler powered home a brilliant flick to bring USA right back into the contest.
However, Japan capitalised on sloppy defending by USA to score through Tanaka, whose two tap-ins off swift attacks left the American players stunned.
India 5 (Harmanpreet 11, 25-ps; Varun Kumar 2, 49; Vivek Prasad 35) bt South Africa 1 (Richard Pautz 53)
Japan 4 (Kenta Tanaka 60, 60; Kazuma Murata 11, Yoshiki Kirishita 25-ps) bt USA 2 (Aki Kaeppeler 10, 59)
Final standings: 1. India 2. South Africa 3. Japan 4. USA 5. Russia 6. Poland 7. Mexico 8. Uzbekistan.