Santander, Spain – The South African men's hockey team lost a closely fought 5-3 unofficial Test to their hosts Spain on Monday afternoon in their penultimate match of their European tour in Santander.
The South Africans had to recover from a narrow 6-5 loss to India on Sunday evening, less than 24 hours before they met Spain on the newly-laid blue turf in the coastal town of Santander.
Spain opened the scoring nine minutes in the half after Pol Amat picked up a turn-over ball inside the SA half, ran toward the SA area and slotted home past goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse.
SA came back after the restart with a well-worked attack, Rhett Halkett finding striker Ian Haley who got past his marker, leaving only the Spanish keeper Francisco Cortes to beat, but Haley shot just wide of the mark.
Spain took control of possession, but the SA defence held firm, with Pieterse making a fine save in the 13th minute to keep his side in the game, before making another brave stop a minute later from a Spanish penalty corner.
SA regrouped as they went in search of an equaliser, which came in the 18th minute of the half following a penalty corner save, which Julian Hykes picked up before unleashing a shot at goal, beating Cortes to level the game.
The visitors looked to control the game, which they did thanks to a solid defensive effort which set-up the midfield to dictate throughout the middle of the half.
Spain did manage to take the lead into the break after they were awarded their third penalty corner of the half, which Pau Quemada scored, beating Pieterse down low to regain the lead.
SA came out into the second period chasing the game and started brightly, dominating possession in the opening exchanges.
The pressure led to Clinton Panther scoring his first goal of the tour after great vision from full-back Lloyd Madsen found Rhett Halkett, who passed to Jonty Robinson before he and Hykes dribbled into the Spanish area with Hykes flashing across the goalmouth, finding a faint touch from Panther, who steered over the line for the 2-2 equaliser.
Pieterse remained solid as he was forced to pull off a diving save from Spain's fifth penalty corner.
Skipper Austin Smith's presence in the midfield allowed SA to find space and time, with Smith shooting just wide of goal after a superb run through the middle and into the area.
Spain crept back into the lead in the 56th through Eduard Tubau who scored his first of the afternoon into the bottom of the goal box to give Spain the lead for the third time in the afternoon.
Spain's celebrations were cut short however, after Smith made another piercing run through the midfield before laying-off to striker Lloyd Norris-Jones who had the Spanish defence at sixes-and-sevens as he unleashed a shot towards goal, Tim Drummond picked up a touch on route to goal, leaving Cortes with no chance as the ball sailed into the roof of the net.
Spain came back five minutes later and scored their fourth through Quemada for his second of the game from Spain's sixth penalty corner, before Tubau completed his brace a minute from time after good work from Roc Oliva found Tubau waiting in the area, to slot home past Pieterse. – Sapa