Investec World League 7th/8th Play Off: South Africa 3-2 Spain.

South Africa finally broke their duck in this competition as they squeaked past Spain to condemn the Europeans to the wooden spoon.

A brace from Lilian Du Plessis and one from Kelly Madsen were enough to give Giles Bonnet’s side the victory but it was far from comfortable.

Spain took the lead in the eighth minute with a lovely goal. Olalla Mosquera slid a precise pass through to Maria Romagosa who provided an exceptional finish, squeezing the ball into the ground to lift it just over the goalkeeper and into the net.

Spain forced a penalty corner which Lola Riera flicked at goal but her effort was saved by Mangisa.

On 19 minutes, South Africa drew level, a long pass into the D by Nicolene Terblanche was expertly diverted in by Du Plessis.

South Africa pressed for a second and both Dirkie Chamberlain and Illse Davids were unlucky to see Maria Zubiria save their strikes on goal.

Bonnet’s side then hit two quick goals to get themselves a cushion at the break. First, Du Plessis notched her second of the game from a tight angle and then, with two minutes to go to half time it was 3-1. Marsha Cox broke forward and played an inch perfect pass to Madsen who entered the D and picked her spot, guiding the ball into the bottom corner and out of the goalkeeper’s reach.

After half time, South Africa had chances to extend their lead Du Plessis blazed over when offered the opportunity to complete her hat-trick and Coetzee and Cox were both frustrated by some excellent goalkeeping from Zubiria on two penalty corners.

At the other end Carlota Petchame tried her luck from the top of the D but the goalkeeper kicked clear. Terblanche almost beat her own goalkeeper, deflecting a pass into the D onto the post with Mangisa beaten. Jade Mayne almost scored a magnificent solo goal as she drove through on her own only to find Zubiria’s agility too much once again.

With three minutes to play, Spain scored their second goal. Anabel Flores forced the ball home at the second attempt after a good save from Mangisa. Despite the lack of time left on the clock South Africa looked nervy. Raquel Huertas went close with a diving deflection that flashed just wide and then, with the last play of the match Spain almost equalised. Flores found herself with time and space in the D but somehow slapped wide, and that was that.

Spain have finished the competition in the dreaded last place, but in truth have shown some flashes of good play. Lola Riera looks to be a good penalty corner weapon and an accomplished player.

For South Africa, they will know they must do better. At times they have seemed reluctant to play to their strengths. Adopting a timid, defensive style, rather than the all out fast attacking style which thrilled fans just a year ago. They have another chance to qualify for the world cup through the African championships, but Giles Bonnet has much to ponder.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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