Belfius EuroHockey Championship
Pool B: England 4 (L Owsley, I Petter, L Unsworth, H Martin) Belarus 3 (K Syddykava, N Syrayezhka, N Shtsin)
Hannah Martin snatched a dramatic late winning goal for England in a heart-stopper to ensure they advance to the semi-finals of the women’s EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp.
Following two heavy defeats, conceding 24 goals, Belarus were massive underdogs against the unbeaten English but they fought back to level twice at 2-2 and 3-3 before succumbing to that late goal.
Indeed, Belarus already gave England plenty to think about in the first eight minutes, winning two penalty corners and then hitting the post from Krestina Papkova from Ulyana Kasabutskaya’s pass.
But England regrouped and took the lead from their first penalty corner, Lily Owsley popping in a rebound. And it was 2-0 by the end of the quarter when Hannah Martin laid the perfect pass into the path of Izzy Petter who guided in from close range.
The Belarussians bounced back in the 16th minute from their fourth corner when Karyna Syddykava slapped in a penalty corner. And they were level in the 22nd minute when Papkova forged her way through a big gap in the middle and played the ball through to Nastassia Syrayezhka who pumped a shot through the pads of Maddie Hinch.
It only remained 2-2 for a matter of seconds, though, as Laura Unsworth restored the English lead from their fourth penalty corner, another rebound after Belarus did not clear their lines.
Hannah Martin hit the post soon after as England tried to put some daylight back into their lead but could not shake off their opponent.
The third quarter saw England run up three corners and some huge chances but they could not convert. Belarus existed on the counter-attack and caused plenty of danger with overloads but found no further end product.
That arrived in the fourth quarter in the most breathtaking of fashions as Kristina Mitskevich charged down an English penalty corner and two passes later the ball was with Papkova on the right wing. Her cross found Yuliya Kurhanskaya who returned the ball back to Nataliia Shtsin who volleyed in first time.
Again, England responded quickly as Emily Defroand picked a perfect pass through the middle to Martin to score what proved to be the winner from a dramatic match.
“Firstly, we are into the semis!” Susannah Townsend said of the final result but she added it was not the performance her side were looking for.
“We conceded three goals that we shouldn’t have conceded; they took the game to us and we are not happy with our performance. The other side of it is we have that semi-final place and we will go into that game a lot better.
“The aim today was to go and win, play our own game and not to drop our level. Our core skills were not good enough and that is definitely something which will come in the next game. We will learn from it.”
Belarus now go into Pool C with no points, needing to get results in their two remaining matches to have a chance of avoiding relegation.
Umpires: A Faias (POR), C Druijts (NED)
England – Belarus
9’ Lily Owsley (PC) 1-0
15’ Izzy Petter (FG) 2-0
16’ Karyna Syddykava (PC) 2-1
22’ Nastassia Syrayezhka (FG) 2-2
22’ Laura Unsworth (PC) 2-3
53’ Nataliia Shtsin (FG) 3-3
56’ Hannah Martin (FG) 4-3