Shivendra Singh saved the day for India with a timely equaliser as the home team played out a 3-3 draw against South Africa in a controversial match to finish fourth in Pool B of the hockey World Cup in New Delhi on Monday . With this draw India ended their pool proceedings with four points, behind Australia, England and Spain.
The hosts will now face the fourth placed team of Pool A for the seventh-eighth play-off match on Friday. Although South Africa have same points as India, they finished in the fifth position due to goal difference while Pakistan find themselves at the bottom in the sixth place.
Sarvanjit Singh (18th minute), Vikram Pillay (24th) and Shivendra (66th) scored for the hosts while Lloyd Norris-Jones (seventh), Ian Haley (38th) and skipper Austin Smith (47th) found the net for the South Africans.
The result of the match could have been in India's favour if not for the newly-introduced video referral system, which ruled out a hosts' goal.
When teams were locked 2-2, the video referral played spoilsport as Sarvanjit's second goal of the match was disallowed after he was nicely set up by a beautiful one-two from captain Rajpal Singh and Gurwinder Singh Chandi.
The video umpire disallowed the goal after South Africa protested for a foot foul at the other end of the pitch and in turn awarded a penalty corner to the Proteas. To make it for worse for India, rival skipper Austin Smith scored from the subsequent short corner to make it 3-2 in favour of South Africa.
From there on the Indians worked hard for the all-important equaliser and found it just five minutes from the hooter through Shivendra who chipped the ball past the South Africa goal-line from a close range to earn precious one point for the hosts.
Earlier, rejuvenated by their 3-2 win over Pakistan, South Africa displayed attractive attacking hockey early on, thereby putting Indian defense under immense pressure at the floodlit Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
Indian could have been a goal down as early as in the opening minute of the match but for goalkeeper Adrain D'souza who tipped away Thornton McDade's powerful reverse stick shot. South Africa's persistent pressure resulted in their first strike in the seventh minute with Indian defense yet again conceding a soft goal.
An unmarked Lloyd Norris-Jones scored for South Africa from top of the circle after dodging past a few Indian players with his fast-paced run from the mid-field. However, that was all South Africa could manage in the opening half as from there on it all Indian as the home team pressed hard for the equaliser.
India's persistent pressure from both the flanks finally resulted in two goals in a span of nine minutes. Sarvanjit drew parity with his first goal of the tournament in the 17th minute and nine minutes later, Pillay made it 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Indian earned their second penalty corner but failed to capitalise on it as Shivendra failed to stop the ball.
He, however, made amends for the mistake when he regained the possession of the ball and slammed a pass from outside the circle which was ably deflected home by Pillay.
Trailing by a goal at the half way mark, the South Africans mounted pressure on the Indian citadel and leveled the scores three minutes into the second period through Justin Reid-Ross who pushed the ball over the goalline from close range.
Inspite of having three dragflickers in the side in Sandeep Singh, Diwakar and Dhananjay Mahadik, for the fourth consecutive day the Indians were off-colour with penalty corners as they failed to convert a single out of the three they earned. However, what was heartening for the Men In Blue was the one-two passes between the mid-field and forwardline. PTI