England storm into Semi Finals with win against Spain

Chris Griffiths celebrates euros 480 x 290

England 4 (2)
Ashley Jackson, 20, 57 (PC, FG) 
Barry Middleton 24 (FG)
Chris Griffiths 45 (PC)

Spain 0 (0)

A double from Ashley Jackson as well as goals from Barry Middleton and Chris Griffiths booked England’s place in the semi-finals of the Unibet EuroHockey Championships. In a fast-paced and physical encounter against Spain, England’s ability to convert their chances made the difference and set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with old foes Germany.

England made a bright start and almost had the lead early on. Alastair Brogdon’s snap shot took a deflection and hit the side netting with most of the crowd thinking the ball had gone in. In the 11th minute, Henry Weir played a raking pass towards the circle which was touched on by Mark Gleghorne for a diving Barry Middleton to divert goalwards only for the goalkeeper Quico Cortes to stretch out a right glove to keep it out. Spain forced a penalty corner two minutes later. Pau Quemada shot low but George Pinner got down well to make the save. England swept forward on the counter attack and Nick Catlin was unlucky to see his shot fly wide, meaning it was level at the break.

With five minutes gone in the second quarter England won their first penalty corner. Jackson stepped up to find the top corner with a superb finish giving Cortes no chance.

England almost made it 2-0 with eight minutes to go to the second period. Mark Gleghorne spun and shot but Cortes was there again to deny him. The second arrived shortly after. Chris Griffiths’ snap shot was saved by Cortes but Middleton reacted first to slot home the rebound to the delight of the home fans. England’s tempo and movement off the ball caused Spain more and more problems and Weir drew another fine save from Cortes as the half drew to a close.

Jackson tested Cortes’ reflexes in the opening salvos of the second half, but the No1 made another fine stop to keep him out. Spain hit back, winning a penalty corner. They worked a slick routine but Pinner made an excellent save from Vincenc Ruiz. From the next two phases of play the giant goalkeeper excelled once more, blocking and clearing twice in quick succession. Spain won a series of penalty corners with under two minutes left in the quarter but England’s defence stood firm, and then set up a chance on the break for Condon. Once again Cortes came up with a splendid save. The goalkeeper’s resistance was broken from the next attack, however. Jackson’s penalty corner was saved but Griffiths reacted first to fire home through the goalkeeper’s legs.

Condon had a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 4-0 in the final quarter but with the goal at his mercy he was unable to control the ball and the chance went begging. England didn’t live to rue that miss, however. Jackson’s long run cut the defence apart and although Ward’s shot was saved, Middleton’s bouncing ball back in found its way to the No7 to prod home his second of the match to seal the win.

England’s next match of the competition is against Germany and takes place on Thursday 27 August at 19:30. Coverage is on the BBC Red button and BBC Sport website.

Quotes – Ashley Jackson

“We’ve played well tonight but it still feels like a little bit of a missed opportunity because we play the Germans in the semi-final now. We’re confident going into the game but we have to avoid a repeat of the lack of performance like happened against the Dutch. That was really frustrating but it was nice to bounce back from that tonight.

It was very important to come out and play well today, but we need to do that in the next game, too. If we play like we did against the Netherlands we’ll be playing for third and fourth. We’re capable of bouncing back from that but that’s not the team we want to be. We want to be the team that plays well in the semi-final and is competing for gold medals.

I have 100% faith in our team. I know that a solid performance will give us a great chance of getting to the final. We are certainly good enough to win, it’s an exciting time.”

The Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 showcases the best eight men’s and women’s teams in Europe, including both England teams. The event will offer entertainment both on and off the pitch with a large fan park, including a fun zone for children. The stadium capacity has been expanded to cater for demand for tickets, with some sessions on the verge of selling out again at the increased capacity. The tournament is one of UK Sport’s National Lottery funded events as part of the #EveryRoadtoRio series. You can find out more at www.uksport.gov.uk/events .