London, Aug 11 (IANS): South Africa gave the finishing touches to India's disastrous campaign in the Olympic men's hockey competition with a 3-2 win in the classification match for 11-12 positions here Saturday.
India thus ended their worst-ever Olympics in 12th position after failing to win or draw any of their six matches, five of them in the league.
Though the Indians showed some purpose against the South Africans, their overall performance in the match was no improvement on their showing in the previous outings.
A weak defence yet again allowed the South Africans to score through Andrew Cronje (8th), Timothy Drummond (33rd) and Lloyd Norris-Jones (64th) while Sandeep Singh converted a penalty corner in the 14th and Dharmavir Singh (66th) reduced the margin for India.
For India, it was a most forgettable Olympics outing that was preceded by much hype after winning the qualifying tournament at home in Delhi for the Games while South Africa achieved their first-ever win against India in a major international tournament.
The first-half proceedings, the three goals notwithstanding, were largely pedestrian with neither side able to establish supremacy or dictate the flow.
The game began rather ominously for India whose defender Manpreet Singh was stretchered out after being hit on the side of the head when he ran into the swinging stick of Lloyd Norris-Jones in the very fourth minute.
A key member of the midfield, Manpreet, however, returned to the field for the second-half after medication and a huge bandage around his head.
South Africa dominated the early minutes and struck in the eighth when Julian Hykes latched on to a long ball into the circle and essayed a push that a diving goalkeeper Sreejesh stopped, but the ball slipped from underneath and a lurking Cronje pushed home.
The lead lasted a mere six minutes as India forced their first penalty corner that Sandeep Singh converted with a low and firm drag-flick past goalkeeper Erasmus Pieterse.
Thereafter, the ball swung from end to end, but with both teams being error prone, the exchanges never looked to result in any goal and so it proved to be.
In the last 10 minutes before the break, the teams showed some urgency and India had a couple of scoring chances, but failed to convert. Rather, the Indians were reduced to 10 men two minutes from half-time with defender Ramachandra Raghunath receiving a yellow card suspension.
The South Africans took advantage of the situation and found the net for the second time through Drummond who put home a Jonathan Robinson pass with about 90 seconds left on the clock.
On resumption, the pace picked up noticeably with both teams putting together some fast attacks, but goalkeepers Sreejith and Pieterse were in their elements to bring off several good saves to keep the score-line pegged at 2-1.
India, besides wasting two gilt-edged chances from open play, failed to convert two penalty corners as Sandeep Singh's attempts were parried by Pieterse.
The lapses were punished as South Africa struck a third time, Norris-Jones converting a Wade-Paton pass before India hit back at the other end with Dharmavir flicking in Shivendra Singh's pass.