England 5 (0)
Ansell (32’ FG), Roper (33’ FG), Wallace (44’ FG), Griffiths (47’ FG), Gall (53’ FG)
Russia 0 (0)
England’s men got off to the perfect start at the EuroHockey Championships with a 5-0 victory over Russia.
Following a goalless first-half, the team came alive after the restart with Phil Roper, Zach Wallace, Chris Griffiths and James Gall on target.
Ollie Payne ensured the side would keep a clean sheet in what was the goalkeeper’s senior international debut for England, whilst Liam Ansell also found the net on his 50th combined cap.
England enjoyed the vast majority of possession through the first quarter and tested Ivan Ozherelev early on.
It wasn’t one way traffic, Tom Sorsby making a superb block on the line to deny Russia from a penalty corner.
Whilst Danny Kerry’s side continued to dominate the possession count, Russia looked dangerous on the break, Payne making a solid save with the glove to keep the game level.
England were regularly working the ball into the circle, Sorsby coming close to lifting the ball over the Russian ‘keeper before David Goodfield was played into a promising position only to lose control of the ball.
Though the team remained persistent on the offensive, England were unable to make the breakthrough in the opening-half with the deadlock yet to be broken.
Following the interval, England came roaring out of the blocks, Roper driving into the circle with a weaving run in the opening minute, the forward then being denied by a magnificent save just a minute later.
With an early onslaught on the Russian goal, the pressure told as the ball fell into the path of Ansell to tuck the ball away and put England one goal to the good.
The side were in again just a minute later, after playing provider for the first, Roper burying the second with a powerful strike finding the bottom corner to double the lead as the team looked unrecognisable from the side that failed to find the net in the first half.
Having fallen behind to two quick strikes, Russia looked to get back into the match with a swift counter of their own, Alexander Skiperskiy diving at the far post but just unable to tap the ball in.
England were looking lethal on the attack and came within inches of bagging a third as Griffiths’ attempt whistled narrowly wide of the goal.
Ozherelev was being kept busy in the Russian goal, having to deal with efforts from Will Calnan and Ansell in quick succession as England continued to dominate.
The momentum was firmly with England as the team peppered the goal with shots, Ansell denied from a penalty corner before a thunderous shot from Wallace on the reverse rocketed into the corner of the goal for a well deserved 3-0 lead.
It was turning into cruise control for Kerry’s side as Griffiths found a beautiful finish before Gall also got in on the act to complete a neat team goal and secure a well earned 5-0 victory for England in their first match at the EuroHockey Championships.
After the game, Roper commented: “We always new it was going to be fairly tough, Russia are renowned for being a physical side and there’s always pre-game nerves at the tart of a massive tournament, but we’re glad it came together in the second-half and we got the win.
“In the second-half the ball started sticking and we got our link-up play. We got the ball in the back of the net but also played very well defensively.
“There’s so many top sides here that you have to be water-tight defensively and creating chances at the other end.”
England’s men return to action on Sunday 6 June against Belgium at 18:45 on BT Sport 2.
Starting XI: Ames, Griffiths, Ward, Roper, Dixon (C), Creed, Payne (GK), Waller, Gall, Sorsby, Wallace
Subs (Used): Martin, Sloan, Griffiths, Goodfield, Ansell, Sanford, Calnan
Subs (Unused): Pinner (GK)