Monday, February 27, 2012

South African women hit jackpot

Investec SA hockey captain Marsha Marescia with the OQT trophy. Photo: AFSAR BEG

A fired-up Investec South Africa women’s hockey team beat India 3-1 after leading 2-0 at half-time in the final of the Olympic Qualifier Tournament at New Delhi’s National Stadium Saturday.
South Africa’s Shelley Russell scored in the first half with Pietie Coetzee and Player of the Tournament Marsha Marescia getting second half goals. Jaspreet Kaur replied towards the end for India.
SA are now the 10th of 12 teams to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
For India it was their first chance to reach an Olympic Games since 1980 while SA were attempting to qualify for their fourth in a row.
In the third minute SA left-side midfielder Russell pounced on a ball drifting invitingly across the strike zone, beat a defender and slipped the ball past goalkeeper Yogita Bali (1-0).
There were turnovers aplenty as play drifted back and forth for 10 minutes before Rani Rampal brought a save from keeper Mariette Rix in the 16th minute.. Then SA captain Marescia made an important tackle on the Indian sharpshooter as she attempted to enter the scoring zone five minutes later.
In the 23rd minute Coetzee was body checked in the 23-metre area and umpire Soledad Iparraguirre of Argentina awarded SA’s first PC, which was not well executed.
Tensions were high and mistakes were many but Russell’s skill won SA’s second PC with seven minutes left to the break. Coetzee’s drag-flick flew over the crossbar. SA won a third PC soon after and the world record goalscorer went low past the keeper for her 233rd goal in 238 Test matches.
Trailing 1-0, India started the second half strongly and double Olympians Kate Woods and Marescia (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) made several vital tackles and interventions before SA won their fourth PC, which Bali saved from Coetzee. At the other end Devi Thokchom could have made more of two chances in quick succession, the second a straight one-on-one which Rix kept out.
With 19 left Sulette Damons made ground and strike partner Coetzee saw her effort bobble against the post but the fifth PC followed and Coetzee’s flick found Marescia’s outstretched stick for the deflection into the net (3-0).
India hit back immediately and Jaspreet Kaur made certain with her team’s second PC, the ball slamming into the backboard (3-1) but it was never going to be enough.
Bonnet has been in charge for 20 months and in that time almost 100 Test matches have been played, several overseas tours undertaken and home series undergone, plus the countless hours of training, planning, video sessions and more. All to earn entry into the London 2012 Olympic Games in five months’ time.

BJSS shoot themselve in foot

BUKIT Jalil Sports School (BJSS) have been improving with every match, but their skipper shot himself in the foot on Sunday, and they will now find their Milo Cup first leg semi- finals against UniKL a harrowing experience on Wednes day.
The five-time double champions lost two matches in the League, 5-1 against SSTMI Thunderbolts and 3-2 against UniKL, while their unnecessary draw was 2-2 against Tunku Besar Secondary School of Tampin.
And in the semis, they will be playing without their skipper Ahmad Ashraf Alias who picked up a yellow card in the second leg quarter-finals for deliberately stopping the ball with his foot to break a Malacca High School (MHS) counter attack.
Ahmad regretted the incident, and will watch from the stands as his mates sweat it out in the first leg.
“As captain of a sports school the team, I should not have done that, and I apologise to my teammates for not being able to help them in a crucial match” said Ahmad, who started playing with the BJSS Juniors outfit in 2006 and graduated to the senior ranks as skipper this season.
“We narrowly lost to UniKL (3-2) in the league and my absence will further weaken our defence. It will also affect our penalty corner battery as I am the main stopper,” said said Ahmad
BJSS qualified for the semi-finals when they trounced MHS 9-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals while UniKL, who won the overall title in 2010, also reached the semis by a 9-2 aggregate against USM Juniors.
Sports School team manager Jusvinder Pal Singh said they warned Ahmad before the match to stay away from cards, and regretted fielding him in the return leg as they already had a 6-1 advantage after the first encounter.
“It was a silly thing to do, as he should not have kicked the ball deliberately. However, we have capable replacements to cover Ahmad’s vacuum, and I expect a close match like in the League,” said Jusvinder.
Division One champions Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) Thunderbolts will face MBI Anderson in the other semi-finals.


SSTMI-Thunderbolts v MBI-Anderson (5pm), Bukit Jalil SS v UniKL (7pm).
March 2 -- Semi-finals return leg: UniKL v Bukit Jalil SS (5pm), MBI Anderson v SSTMI Thunderbolts (7.30pm).
(All semi-final matches at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil).

Indian dream lives again

India's Sandeep Singh celebrates with Shivendra Singh after scoring a goal during the Olympic qualifier Hockey match against France at National Stadium in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: S. Subramanium.

By Y.B. Sarangi, The Hindu

Final standings: 1. India, 2. France, 3. Canada, 4. Poland, 5. Italy, 6. Singapore.

RESULTS: Final: India 8 (Birendra Lakra 17; Sandeep Singh 19, 26, 38, 49, 51; S.V. Sunil 43; V.R. Raghunath 56) bt France 1 (Simon Martin-Brisac 24).
Third place playoff: Canada 4 (Ken Pereira 4, 51; Rob Short 27; Matt Guest 41) bt Poland 3 (Artur Mikula 9; Szymon Oszyjczyk 28; Bartosz Zywiczka 52).
Fifth place playoff: Italy 5 (Daniele Malta 28; Andrea Corsi 33; Agustin Nunez 42; Ignacio Salas 47, 58) bt Singapore 0.

THE methodical approach and the rock solid self-belief of the Michael Nobbs-coached Indian hockey team finally paid off as the side capped its chain of sterling performances in the Olympic qualifier with a thumping 8-1 win over France in the final.
The title victory at the National Stadium here on Sunday not only ensured the return of the Indian team to the Olympics after the 2004 Athens Games, but also healed the wounds of the four-year-old ‘Chile horror' when the country had failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 80 years.
It also helped lessen the home fans' disappointment arising out of the women team's failure in making the trip to London.
The Indian players exulted in joy and gathered in a victory huddle when the clock completed its 70-minute countdown. It was a relief of lifetime for the six current players — Bharat Chetri, V.R. Raghunath, Shivendra Singh, Tushar Khandker, Sardar Singh and Ignace Tirkey — who were part of India's failed attempt to make the Olympics in 2008.
Sandeep Singh netted five goals, including his second hat-trick of the tournament, while Birendra Lakra, S.V. Sunil and V.R. Raghunath found the mark to record the superb victory in front of thousands of Tricolour-waving spectators.
Simon Martin-Brisac was the lone scorer for the runner-up team. France had already exceeded its expectations by making the final at the expense of the higher-ranked Canada.
In the action-packed first period, India overcame stiff resistance from the fast moving Frenchmen to pump in two spectacular goals in quick succession. Lakra completed a superb cross from Manpreet Singh on the right with a blazing reverse hit to open the account in the 17th minute.
The second goal came in dramatic circumstances with Shivendra Singh, pushed inside the French circle, successfully appealing for a penalty corner through video referral and Sandeep accomplishing the task with his trademark drag-flick.
France pulled one back through a surprise move as Sebastian Jean-Jean's on-the-run shot was deflected in by Martin-Brisac with his back to the Indian goal.
Sandeep scored from the host's third short corner and India kept its two-goal lead intact at the break with another successful referral which snatched away a penalty corner awarded to France, which built immense pressure on the host's defence with some fierce counter-attacks.
Sandeep converted the third consecutive penalty corner to make it 4-1 in the 38th minute. Led by a brilliant P.R. Sreejesh under the bar, India thwarted four penalty corners in a row.
Several bouts of frayed tempers and tough tackles from the Frenchmen could not stop the home forwards from going on a rampage and snuffing life out of the opposition.
Sandeep scored two more goals to complete his rare feat of five goals in a final. With 16 goals in the event, he emerged as the top scorer of the tournament.
Canada beat Poland 4-3 to take the third place, while Italy thrashed Singapore 5-0 for the fifth position.