Late corner strike sees England beaten in semi-final

Shona McCallin v New Zealand HWL F 2017
England (0) 0

New Zealand (0) 1
Merry (55, PC)

England will play in the bronze medal match of the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final after being defeated by hosts New Zealand in their semi-final.

Olivia Merry’s superb penalty corner just five minutes from the final whistle was enough to give her side the win despite England throwing everything at the Kiwis in the closing stages.

It came at the end of a fraught game played at a blistering pace that the Black Sticks largely dominated although it was England who created the better chances overall, Lily Owsley having an effort disallowed and Sophie Bray smashing the crossbar.

While the result was disappointing for captain Alex Danson, she said she could not have faulted her team’s effort and is already focusing on securing their third bronze medal of the year on Sunday.

"Credit to New Zealand, they were fantastic today,” the forward said. 

“I am very proud of the team, we didn’t stop running and we did everything we could. We did not stop until the final minute.

“We’re coming out for that last game. We’ve had a good tournament and we’ve travelled a long way for this. We’ll come out fighting in that final game.”

Buoyed on by their home fans and feeling confident after their quarter-final defeat of Argentina, the hosts won a penalty corner on review in the second minute, with Rose Keddell forcing Maddie Hinch into a smart save after Owsley blocked Brooke Neal’s initial effort.

The game continued at a frenetic pace thereafter with both teams looking to pounce on the counter amidst some crunching tackles, although neither could force a clear opportunity.

England then thought they had taken the lead through Owsley as she bundled the ball home at the start of the second quarter, only for the umpires to rule the ball had touched the back of her stick in the build up.

The Black Sticks then took control and pressed hard to break through the English defence, winning another corner in the 22nd minute that saw Hinch fling herself to her right to keep out Neal.

But it was England who were to have the final two shots of the half as Sarah Haycroft scuffed a good chance wide before Ellie Rayer’s reverse effort was saved on the stroke of half-time.

The second half began at a slower tempo but picked up towards the end of the third quarter as Owsley once again led an England charge down the right before Bray’s instinctive overhead smash cannoned off the crossbar in the 42nd minute.

Sally Rutherford then saved two Giselle Ansley corners before New Zealand won their own set piece with Neal once again thwarted, this time by Laura Unsworth.

That sparked New Zealand back into life and captain Stacey Michelsen led them with aplomb, going on a powerful run in the 49th minute before unleashing a fierce shot that was well blocked by Hollie Pearne-Webb.

Hinch then produced another fantastic save to keep her opponents out shortly after but five minutes from the end she was finally beaten as Merry beautifully lifted a penalty corner over her outstretched hand for the crucial goal.

That lead almost doubled seconds later as Hinch denied Madison Doar with another fine save before England had a penalty corner overturned in the final minute to ensure it was New Zealand who emerged victorious.

England will now play in the bronze medal match at 5am on Sunday 26 November in a game you can watch on BT Sport.

Starting XI: Hinch, Unsworth, Martin, Paige, Danson, Ansley, Bray, Pearne-Webb, McCallin, Owsley, Balson

Subs (Used): Haycroft, Toman, Petty, Sanders, Rayer, Defroand, 

Subs (Not Used): Tennant