India made a stunning comeback from three goals down to hold South Africa 3-3 and won the five-match Karbonn Cup hockey Test series 3-1 at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Sunday.
South Africa struck thrice in a space of eight minutes through Ricky West (26th), Ian Haley (29th) and Miguel da Graca (34th) to take a 3-0 lead in the first half.
India looked a completely different side in the second half and churned out a dominating performance with goals from Yuvraj Walmiki (43rd), V. Raghunath (49th) and S.K. Uthappa (66th).
India had their moments in match and had to blame themselves for a draw in the last match of the tournament, that was a part of the team's preparation for the Olympic Qualifiers to be held here from February 18-26. India could convert only one of the five Penalty Corners that came their way.
India coach Michael Nobbs blamed the team's complacent attitude.
"I think it was a stunning performance from the boys as they had to come back from three goals down. But since they had already clinched the series, complacency reflected in their game in the first half. That is not the kind of professionalism I expect from this side," he said.
Having already sealed the series, India looked to dominate the proceedings right from the start but after 10 minutes of good show the hosts looked lost against the compact defence of South Africa.
Nobbs admitted that his forwards were under immense pressure. He said it was time to back young forwards like Walmiki, who rose to prominence during his maiden international tournament -- Asian Champions Trophy.
"Our forwards were under tremendous pressure in the second half. I was really angry with their performance in the first half. It is very important for us to back youngsters like Yuvraj. Youngsters can do extraordinary things, including mistakes. We have to just back them so they work hard," said Nobbs, adding that senior player Rajpal Singh has been qualifiers.
South Africa took the surprise lead in the 26th minute after Julian Hykes made a brilliant run into the area and gave a precise pass to West, who shot it past India goalkeeper P.Sreejesh. Five minutes later, South Africa doubled the lead after Haley sounded the board from a loose ball. A minute before the breather, Taine Paton made a brilliant run into the area to set-up Haley, who slotted it in.
India put on a lacklustre performance in the first half squandering three Penalty Corners. Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh missed a chance each.
India came close to open their account in the 42nd minutes, but Shivendra Singh's shot lacked the power to beat South African goalkeeper Jacques Le Roux. Three minutes later India finally found the much needed goal when Sardar Singh from the top of the area gave a good pass to Walmiki to sound the board.
India doubled the lead in he 59th minute after Raghunath comverted a brilliant penalty corner that left the South African defence in awe. The hosts finally found the equaliser in the 66th minutes when Uthappa after a 1-2 with Sarvanjit Singh sounded the board.
Nobbs said the tournament has been a great learning exercise for the India team ahead of the Olympic qualifiers.
"The challenge for us is to do the things that we do well. We have also pointed out some tactical mistakes. How to make the most of a free hits is one of them," he said.
Nobbs also said that the problems in India's defence will be sorted out once the team gets the final shape.
"In this tournament we experimented with some young boys. But once we get the final team in place all the problems will be sorted out," he said.
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