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India stage grand rally to beat South Africa

August 17, 2004 22:17 IST
Last Updated: August 18, 2004 02:07 IST

Tuesday's match results

Korea 3 Great Britain 2
Argentina 2 Australia 2
South Africa 2 India 4
Egypt 0 Pakistan 7
Netherlands 4 New Zealand 3
Germany 1 Spain 1

India displayed magic of yore as they rallied from a two-goal deficit to get the better of South Africa 4-2 in their second Group B match in the men's Olympic hockey tournament in Athens on Tuesday.

Old warhorses skipper Dilip Tirkey and Dhanraj Pillay pulled India out of the woods with a stout-hearted display that left the South Africans overawed in the end.

While Tirkey had a hand in India's first goal and put Indians into the lead for the first time in the match, making it 3-2 with a minute to go, Pillay played his heart out, scoring the opener and then paving the way for the match-winner in the last minute of the match.

The victory was India's first from two outings and kept them in the hunt for a place in the last four. South Africa suffered their first defeat in two matches.

Like in the opening match against Holland, it was another bad start for India. Poor defending saw them fall into areas as early as the eighth minute when Greg Nicol, who scored both the goals in the 2-1 shock victory over Argentina in the opener, scored for South Africa from their first penalty-corner.

With the defence still to settle down, a breakaway raid saw the South Africans increase the lead

In the 13th minute when Craig Fulton pounced on the rebound of goalkeeper Adrain D'Souza's pads and slammed home. On both instances the defenders were caught ball watching.

Two goals down the Indians launched an all-out attack but their forwards were crowded out by the South African defence. Their fist clear look at goal came in the 24th minute when Prabhjot Singh was put through on the top of the circle, but his reverse hit sailed over the South Africa goal.

With good promptings from Vikram Pillay and Viren Rasquinha the Indian forwards continued to apply pressure on the South African citadel and forced their first penalty-corner in the 27th minute. Dilip Tirkey took the hit from the top of the circle as Sandeep Singh was off the field. His stiff shot ricocheted of goalkeeper Craig Jackson's pads but Dhanraj Pillay was quick to seize the chance and dispatch home.

Having pulled a goal back, the Indians continued to attack in the last five minutes of the first half but without success.

India went into the second half in full throttle. Sandeep Singh was kept on the bench as he was a weak link in the Indian defence on the right, which the South Africans exploited. Within six minutes they drew abreast when Baljit Singh Dhillon scored from the second penalty-corner after Pillay was fouled following a brilliant run into the circle from the right during which he beat a couple of defenders.

The South Africans had a good chance to go ahead for the third time in the match in the 56th minute when they forced two successive penalty-corners, but goalkeeper Adrain D'Souza came up with magnificent saves on both occasions.

With five minutes to go for the hooter, India should have made it 3-2 following their sixth penalty-corner. Tirkey's stiff hit came off the South African goalkeeper's pads but Pillay sent the ball over from handshaking distance.

With the Indians all over the South African goal, it was imminent that they would score. And they did in the 69th minute following their last penalty-corner with Tirkey driving hard and true.

A bonus goal came with 20 seconds to go for the hooter when a quick one-two between Prabhjot and Pillay resulted in the last-named drawing out the goalkeeper and laying the ball on a platter for Gagan Ajit Singh to complete the finishing touches.

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