It was Pool B that was on show here in Amsterdam, a win puts England on top of the Pool with 3 points following their win over Italy, Belgium and Germany on a point each.
England 4 (S Evans, J Hunter, C Ledesma, E Rayer) Italy 0
England got their women’s EuroHockey Championship campaign up and running with a strong victory over Italy with four field goals doing the damage.
Mark Hager’s English side were the side making most of the forward moves for much of the first half, penning Italy in their 23m zone, looking to counter where possible.
Their defence was unpicked, though, in the 13th minute when Holly Pearne-Webb picked a brilliant passing line to Sarah Evans who rode a tackle and then jinked quickly with her stick to slot under debuting goalkeeper Sofia Montserrat.
And the game turned decisively England’s way around the 25 minute mark. Italy thought they had equalised when a cracking right wing cross was controlled and slotted home by…
It was initially awarded before video cancelled it out. Within seconds, the ball was worked up to the far end where Jo Hunter cracked home from mid-circle and there was a two-goal swing.
And the English continued their ascendancy into the second half, running up seven penalty corners and creating numerous moments of danger. Erica Sanders went closest when her reverse-stick shot hit the side netting while Montserrat had to scramble to keep out a number of close-range melees.
Catherine Ledesma eventually got the third goal with 12 minutes to when her shot spun over the line. Soon after, Grace Balsdon provided the perfect cross for Ellie Rayer to tap in at close quarters for 4-0.
“A good start, a good ratio!” said Ledesma after her goal in her international debut. “One game, one goal – I’ll try and keep that up. It’s just an amazing experience and the girls have been so nice about celebrating my first cap. Really nice to start with a goal.
“We really followed our processes well and stuck to the gameplan which is something we have really been working on. They were difficult to play against, sitting quite deep and then going direct which can take you off guard.
England – Italy. (2-0)
13’ 1-0 Sarah Evans (FG)
25’ 2-0 Jo Hunter (FG)
48’ 3-0 Catherine Ledesma (FG)
52’ 4-0 Ellie Rayer (FG)
Umpires: C Martin-Schmets (BEL), A Bogolyubova (RUS)
Germany 1 (C Pieper) Belgium 1 (A Ballenghien)
Belgium snatched a point late in the game as Ambre Ballenghien struck with five minutes to go, bouncing back just moments after Germany thought they had picked up a winner via Cecile Pieper in their opening Pool B tie.
The Red Panthers were the first to bear their teeth, Justine Rasir’s delicate shot skimming just past the boot of Julia Sonntag but also by the post.
It was the clearest of the first half openings as Germany could not take advantage from their pair of corner chances in an intense, well-matched battle.
The Germans upped the pressure in the third quarter with strong corner shots from both Sonja Zimmerman and Nike Lorenz repelled by Elena Sotgiu. And the goalkeeper did brilliantly to block out the rampant Charlotte Stapenhorst as the game remained scoreless until seven minutes from the end.
When the first goal did arrive, it was a beauty. Pia Maertens intercepted the ball 70 metres from goal and worked a quick pass forward with Lisa Altenburg set free to lay on a perfect cross for Cecile Pieper to finish off.
But Belgium replied instantly with the flying winger Charlotte Englebert bursting through and firing at goal. Sonntag saved but Abi Raye was first to react, her touch putting the ball into the path of Ballenghien who thumped home.
And the striker was pleased with the result from a Belgian perspective: “Both sides had a lot of chances so we just needed to be patient and stay in the structure. In the first half, we had a lot of chances and it could have gone either way so we are happy with the point.”
She added that the side is enjoying life under coach Raoul Ehren who has recently been installed on a full-time basis having worked with the side for a number of years.
“He gives a lot of freedom to the team and the players; there is a clear structure but we have freedom to bring our traits to the game and that is what we are looking to do each game. One point against Germany is a good result; they are very strong and will compete for a medal at the Olympics so to get a point is a good start.”
Germany – Belgium 1-1 (0-0)
53’ 1-0 Cecile Pieper (FG)
55’ 1-1 Ambre Ballenghien (FG)
Umpires: S.Wilson (SCO) Y van Slooten (NED)
All games will be streamed on www.eurohockeytv.org (GEO blocking in Belgium, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
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Photographs: EHF / World Sport pics (c)