Bhubaneswar [India], June 6 (ANI): USA beat South Africa 2-0 in the opening match of the FIH Men's Series Finals at Kalinga Stadium here on Thursday.
The first game saw the African Champions, South Africa to take on United States of America. It was a great start of an event, an entertaining game which saw the USA registering the first three points of the tournament.
Both teams started at a high tempo. Just three minutes into the game, South Africa's Richard Pautz missed a big opportunity to open the scoring, just meters from the goal post. Gradually in the first quarter, the African champions put pressure on the USA side, while they were defending well and playing counter-attacks.
The pattern of play changed at the start of the second quarter with the American side displaying a more attacking style of play.
However, after a great save from a South Africa's goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse following a shot from Deegan Huisman. Just after that, South Africa had a huge opportunity with Nicolas Spooner's attempt hitting the goalpost. This seemed to give a further boost to the players who created multiple chances, through Nqobile Ntuli in particular as well as a series of consecutive penalty corners which they could not convert into a goal. The USA was struggling in the second part of that quarter.
Additionally, they had the misfortune to lose their captain Ajai Dhadwal through injury.The third quarter started similarly but USA's goalkeeper Jonathan Klages also nominated Man of the Match brilliantly kept his team in the game with three consecutive saves from as many penalty corners.
The USA was defending well and managed to produce interesting counter-attacks, therefore growing in confidence. The game was moving into a completely different direction and USA's Kei Kaeppeler came close to scoring the first goal of the tournament after a remarkably skilful piece of individual play.
USA's Christian De Angelis scored early in the final quarter, following a penalty corner. From then on, the Americans made every effort to control the game and continued to defend well against a South African team trying everything to reach a more favourable result. Instead of that, it was the USA who ensured their success with a second goal, from Paul Singh this time, shortly before the end of the match.
After awarded with Man of the Match, USA's goalkeeper Jonathan Klages said that he was very nervous before his first big tournament.
"To be honest, I was super nervous because this is my first big tournament, so I didn't know really what to expect. I was glad to help my team as much as I could. I cannot do without my team. So, thanks to my teammates, first of all !", Man of the Match Jonathan Klages, USA's goalkeeper, said.
In the quest of qualifying in Tokyo 2020 Olympics, eight teams from Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America are battling for top two positions, as only the top two teams will alotted Olympic qualifier quota.
Later on the day, Poland will take on Uzbekistan and India will play against Russia in Pool A encounters. (ANI)