Argentina moved ominously into the semi-final of the Investec World League with a solid display to see off South Africa in the first game of the day here in London.
Silvina D’Elia grabbed a brace and Rosario Luchetti continued her fine goalscoring form with another goal in the 68th minute.
In truth, South Africa will rue a timid first half performance where they appeared to give their opponents far too much respect. In the second half, they reverted to something closer to their natural, attacking game and could easily have salvaged something.
Argentina asserted their authority over their opponents in the early going, Gisele Juarez drew a good save from Sanani Mangisa, before the SA goalkeeper was once again called into action to repel Carla Rebecchi who was set free by a good pass from Juarez. The rebound fell to Daniela Sruoga who blazed wide from just inside the D.
On 19 minutes Argentina took the lead. They used a lovely penalty corner move where Noel Barrionuevo slipped the ball behind her back for D’Elia to smash a low shot into the backboard giving Mangisa little chance.
Kelly Madsen had South Africa’s first real chance but despite the ball sitting up nicely in the D she shot just wide.
Mangisa continued to be the busiest player in the South African side as she first saved another corner from D’Elia and then did enough to force Martina Cavallero wide enough that she could not force the ball home.
After the break South Africa played with much more attacking ambition and much more purpose.
Sulette Damons burst forward in the opening seconds but her shot went wide of the far post. In a furious start to the half, Damons had an even better chance as Dirkie Chamberlain sent her through with just Maria Aladro to beat. Damons rounded the goalkeeper but fired her shot into the side netting.
South Africa squandered an even better chance as Quanita Bobbs’ cross somehow found its way through to Jade Mayne at the back post, but the Canterbury striker couldn’t find the finish.
On 47 minutes, their pressure paid dividends. Shelley Russell showed her excellent pace and skills to get along the baseline, the ball popped up from Pietie Coetzee’s shot and was turned over the line by a defender to make it 1-1.
With Las Leonas reeling Madsen broke along the baseline from the left, her 3D skills took her away from the goalkeeper but her cross evaded everyone.
Argentina responded and forced a penalty corner in the 53rd minute. the initial shot was saved but it fell to D’Elia who lashed the ball home from near the top of the D.
With South Africa visibly tiring, Rebecchi was afforded time and space in the D but her shot was well saved by Mangisa, who was then alert moments later to bravely repel a fierce strike from Florencia Habif.
With two minutes on the clock, Argentina secured the win with another goal. This time it was a swift counterattack down the left, Cavallero’s cross was swept home at the second attempt by Luchetti, scoring her fourth of the competition.
South Africa almost grabbed a late consolation as Coetzee did well to hold the ball up and play in Damons, but not for the first time the No.30 was unable to trouble the goalkeeper.
The game ended 3-1 to Las Leonas, who await the winner of Italy vs. England. For South Africa it was a bit of a missed opportunity. Once they got over their first half display they created enough chances and caused Argentina enough problems to have got a result. In the end, Argentina showed why they are an excellent tournament side. They once again did enough to progress which is the name of the game.