England 4 (2)
Evans (13’ FG), Hunter (25’ FG), Ledesma (48’ FG), Rayer (52’ FG)
Italy 0 (0)
England’s women emphatically surpassed Italy 4-0 in their opening EuroHockey Championships match.
Catherine Ledesma enjoyed a dream start to her international career with a goal on debut as Esme Burge, Fiona Crackles and Lizzie Neal also picked up their maiden England cap.
In an accomplished performance from Mark Hager’s side, goals from Sarah Evans, Jo Hunter and Ellie Rayer ensured England would take the three points in their first game of the competition.
England looked sharp from the start, Erica Sanders finding herself in bags of space inside the circle before unleashing a driven shot on the reverse just wide before Fiona Crackles won a penalty corner.
Italy's defence tightened up and chances were few and far between until the 13th minute, when Hollie Pearne-Webb fired a sumptuous ball into the circle that Evans controlled brilliantly before spinning a defender, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting home to give England the lead.
Halfway through the second quarter, Italy looked to have found an equaliser only for the goal to be chalked off on review, with the ball hitting a foot during the build-up.
It was to be a double blow for the Italians as Grace Balsdon’s pass found Hunter in the circle who turned well and ferociously arrowed the ball through the defender’s legs and into the backboard.
Two goals to the good and having dominated possession, England were looking solid going into half-time.
Immediately after the restart England were on the front foot again, producing several half-chances before a Grace Balsdon flick forced a good save from the Italian goalkeeper.
Having weathered the storm, the Italians then produced a chance of their own as Maddie Hinch was required to make a smart block from a corner before Rayer and Lily Owsley were then themselves denied.
After entering the field during the second-half, it didn’t take long for Ledesma to make her mark on the match when she profited from a loose ball in the circle and conjured a tidy finish in the 48th minute to bag a goal on debut.
Determined to continue their attacking play until the end, Balsdon fired a brilliant ball across goal into the path of Rayer to clinically sweep in her first England goal to ensure her team would take the three points in their opening EuroHockey Championships match.
"I was so amazed to score on my international debut! When I saw the ball had gone in the goal I think I was more shocked than anything," 22-year-old Ledesma said after the game.
"The team have been so nice and welcoming and celebrating with them all after I had scored was a special moment for me."
Mark Hager added: "I'm pleased to come away with the victory. There were lots of positive elements to our play today and I'm looking forward to adding to them in our second game against Germany."
England’s women are back in action on Monday 7 June against Germany at 16:00, the match will be shown live on BT Sport.
Starting XI: Hinch (GK), Unsworth, Evans, Toman, Townsend, Rayer, Ansley, Pearne-Webb (C), Owsley, Balsdon, Petter
Subs (Used): Burge, Sanders, Neal, Hunter, Ledesma, Crackles
Subs (Unused): Heesh