England into final after tense win over Spain

England against Spain euros 480 x 290

England 2 (1)
Alex Danson 4 (PC)
Lily Owsley 52 (FG)

Spain 1 (0)
Georgina Oliva 44 (FG)

Goals from Alex Danson and Lily Owsley steered England into the final of the Unibet EuroHockey Championships after a tense battle with Adrian Lock’s Spain. Danson struck her fourth of the tournament in the fourth minute to give Danny Kerry’s team the lead but Spain hit back through Georgina Oliva’s splendid strike to set up a nervy finish. Owsley’s intervention eight minutes from time settled the match and set up a final with the Netherlands.

England started brightly. Susannah Townsend stole the ball inside the Spain half and burst forwards. Her shot was charged down with the rebound falling to Shona McCallin, but she couldn’t connect at the top of the circle and the chance was gone. Danson then fired a snapshot into the side netting as England hunted the opening goal.

On four minutes they got that goal from their first penalty corner. Kate Richardson-Walsh took the shot which came back off the goalkeeper’s pads but Danson was on hand to stab home on the volley from close range. It stayed 1-0 at the quarter time break.

Sophie Bray tested Maria Ruiz in the Spain goal with a backhand strike at the start of the second period but the goalkeeper kicked the chance clear. Berta Bonastre created Spain’s first real opening, seizing possession inside the England half and racing clear of the defence. The angle was against her and Maddie Hinch made the save.

Townsend stung the goalkeeper’s pads with a shot and Ashleigh Ball was unable to direct the rebound on target as England rallied and took control of the game once more.

Danson took the full force of a ball on the foot, causing concern for England as their iconic striker left the field for treatment. Then it went from bad to worse for the hosts as Spain won a penalty corner. Gloria Comerma hit the shot but Hinch got down well to make the save and preserve the lead at the interval.

The third quarter began with a welcome sight for the home crowd, Danson emerged to take her place back on the pitch. The No15 was straight into the action, peeling away from her marker at the near post to get on the end of a cross with her shot flashing just wide. With a minute left until the end of the third quarter Spain drew level with a splendid goal. A quick free hit set up Oliva who smashed a searing backhand shot into the top corner to level it up with a quarter of the game to go.

Spain’s Carlota Petchame picked up a yellow card inside the final quarter handing England a player advantage. Georgie Twigg engineered some space inside the circle but the goalkeeper did well to keep out her shot. The Spanish resistance was short-lived and after a series of passes just outside the circle Owsley forced the ball past the goalkeeper to re-establish the lead.

McCallin broke forwards inside the final three minutes and fed Ball who hit a strong backhand strike which Ruiz got a glove to. England couldn’t quite kill off Adrian Lock’s team and Spain threw everything forwards in the closing stages. England’s backline held firm to see out the game and to take their place in Sunday’s final.

England’s next match is the final against Netherlands on 30 August at 16:00 live on the BBC.

Quotes – Laura Unsworth, England

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It was a really tough match but we played our hearts out to the very last minute. We knew if we kept playing our game the second goal would come. We were hanging on at the end but we got over the line. I can’t wait for Sunday!

We knew if we could start strong like we did against Germany we would be well set. We got the early goal but Spain are an improving side and they gave everything. Some teams don’t allow you to play. When we’re in our flow we are unstoppable and obviously they did their best to slow it down and break the play up. We spoke about increasing the tempo and not playing the way they wanted us to, and that got us the goals we need and we’re in the final!

The crowd was unbelievable tonight. When they sang the national anthem it gave me goosebumps. It was an incredible night. We have special memories of three years ago in the Olympics and this place is becoming home, we love playing here.

It’s always tight against the Dutch but they don’t like our physicality. I think the semi-final in 2013 was the last time we played them so it’ll be very interesting for us to take them on. We have the 12th man of the crowd, we are fit and strong and we will go out and go after them.”

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 .