Indian eves suffered their first defeat in the tournament when they went down fighting to top-ranked South Africa 2-5 in their fourth encounter of the women's qualifiers for the London Olympics, at the Dhyan Chand Stadium, in New Delhi on Wednesday.
South Africa clearly looked a better team on Wednesday as they showed better co-ordination as they released the ball quickly and their defenders didn't give the Indians much space to operate.
The highest ranked in the tournament, scored through Dirkie Chamberlain (12th minute, 32nd, 58th) and Sulette Damons (53rd, 67th), while for India skipper Asunta Lakra (23rd) and Soundarya Yendala (52nd) reduced the margin.
South Africa played a very fast-paced game and attacked the Indian citadel and kept the ball in their half for most part of the match. However, it was India who earned the first chance to score when they earned a penalty corner as early as in the 3rd minute but they failed to materialise it.
Immediately, South Africa, on a counter-attack, earned their first PC but they too failed to make use of the chance.
Unperturbed the proteas girls kept pressing for a goal and earned another PC in the ninth minute but once again, they returned empty handed in front of an alert Indian defence.
Dirkie Chamberlain finally put South Africa in the lead when she scored from close range after their first penalty corner strike from Kate Woods was blocked by the Indian goalie Savita.
Eleven minutes later, India earned their second penalty corner which culminated into another PC but this time, skipper Asunta Lakra didn't make any mistake and scored on the direct hit as the defenders were found napping.
However, Dirkie once again found the back of the net in the 32nd minute when she slotted home on a rebound after Shelley Russell's hit was stopped by Savita to help South Africa keep their nose ahead 2-1 going into the lemon break.
In the second half, there was plenty of action at both the camps with India earning another short corner in the 37th minute but the hosts failed to convert it. Another opportunity went abegging when Rani's powerful hit got deflected off the horizontal.
In the 47th minute, India earned yet another penalty corner and had almost got the equaliser. It was finally Soundarya who brought India on the even keel, nudging home from close after India tried out a variation in another penalty corner at the 52nd minute.
However, South Africa was prompt to hit back immediately within 30s with Sulette Damons finding the cage with a reverse hit. The visitors made it 4-2 in the 58th minute with Dirkie completing a hattrict.
South Africa clearly looked a more fit team as they kept looking for more gaols and made it 5-2 in the 67th minute when Damons easily got the net after getting a pass from Kathleen Taylor as Indian defence was found napping once again.
With time running out of their hands, India tried to narrow down the margin and made a few shies at the rival post but none of them fructified as they succumbed to their first defeat in the tournament.
In other matches, Italy defeated Ukraine 2-1 while Canada saw off Poland 1-0.
In the day's first match, 19th ranked Italy took an early lead when Alessia Dorian Padalino converted a penalty-corner in the fifth minute.
Ukraine, with one draw and a win so far, brought up the equaliser in the 39th minute of the second half through a field goal by Bohdan Sadova.
Italy broke the deadlock when Giulian Ruggieri made good use of a penalty-corner with a minute to go for the hooter.
Italy, with two wins and as many draws, are currently at the top of the table with eight points.
In the second match, Canada and Poland fought hard to nose ahead but neither could make headway as they moved into the breather locked 0-0. After the break, the search continued before Canada's Stephani Jameson brought up the crucial goal in the 65th minute, slotting home from a penaty stroke.