Belfius EuroHockey Championships
Women’s Pool B: England 2 (S Petty, G Ansley) Ireland 1 (B Barr)
England survived a late Irish onslaught to win their first game in Pool B of the EuroHockey Championship in Antwerp with first half corner goals proving decisive.
Suzy Petty and Giselle Ansley scored one each before the big break for an imposing 2-0 lead and while Beth Barr got one back with 17 minutes to go, they held for a narrow 2-1 success.
England took what looked like full control in the first half with penalty corner goals in either quarter for a 2-0 advantage.
Hannah Martin was the key player, her bounding runs causing plenty of problems, and she won the corner which led to their opening goal.
Ayeisha McFerran saved Ansley’s first shot but Anna Toman kept the ball live and, after a couple of swipes, Petty nudged in at the left post for 1-0.
Ansley doubled the lead from another set-piece, a breathtaking drag-flick that was too quick for the out-stretched reach of McFerran.
For Ireland, the pick of their first half manouveres came in the last minute via a corner. Roisin Upton’s push took a deflection from Anna O’Flanagan, hopping and skipping over Maddie Hinch but Toman was in place to clear up.
But, after a scrappy phase of the game, Ireland got a goal back from their second corner while England were down to 10 players with Martin on a yellow. Chloe Watkins won the corner and then slapped the ball into Beth Barr whose touch made it through Hinch, setting up a fascinating final quarter.
Martin thrashed inches wide with a great chance before Ireland started to step on once again, creating chance after chance. Cards became more prevailent, too, with Zoe Wilson and Sarah Evans taking yellows.
Maddie Hinch made two hugely important saves while Shirley McCay’s penalty corner shot went inches wide as England held on to their slender lead and all three points.
Reflecting on the win, Ansley said: “We never expected to run away with it and it was a tough fight. We talk about home nations clashes as tough affairs and they were always going to come at us but we rode it out.
“They played with their heart on their sleeve and we had to match that. The intensity we took into the game we are pleased with and tournament hockey is about winning ugly if you have to.”
On the other side, Irish captain Katie Mullan added: “We’re pretty frustrated with the result, not the performance we put in, especially in the second half.
“We were a bit slow to start but they felt our pressure in the second half and we could have done with a couple more minutes at the end. We would have got the goal with another quarter!
“But it does say a lot about where we are at and where we are moving to. It wasn’t about hanging on. For us, we controlled phases of the game, had a lot of opportunities. In the past against England, it would be a different story so that is a positive.”
Umpires: C Druijts (NED), C Wright (WAL)
England – Ireland
15’ Suzy Petty (PC) 1-0
28’ Giselle Ansley (PC) 2-0
43’ Beth Barr (PC) 2-1