Giselle Ansley (3 PC); Tess Howard (40 FG); Hannah Martin (52 PC)
Katariya Vandana (60 PC)
England’s women qualified for the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games in style with a 3-1 win over India.
Giselle Ansley, Tess Howard and Hannah Martin got the crucial goals in Birmingham to make it three wins from three games and cement England’s place at the top of Pool A.
In a rematch of the 2018 clash for bronze, ruthless finishing made the difference as the host nation absorbed long periods of pressure before taking the game away from their battling opponents.
India, who drew 1-1 with England at the FIH World Cup last month, had plenty of circle entries and penalty corner opportunities but only got the ball in the English net once the game was lost.
Only nine seconds remained when a low drag from a penalty corner was touched in by Katariya Vandana for a late consolation.
But the day belonged to England, who now sit three points clear of India and Canada at the top of Pool A, with those two sides still to play one another tomorrow.
England: Hinch (GK), Unsworth, Toman, Martin, Rayer, Petter, Ansley, Pearne-Webb, Crackles, Owsley, Peel.
Subs: Hunt, Walker, Howard, Hamilton, McCallin, Heesh (GK), Balsdon
England started the faster of the two sides and their early pressure was rewarded inside three minutes.
The first penalty corner of the contest set up Ansley to fire home, via a deflection off an Indian runner, for her second goal of the Games.
That was indicative of the early stages with Martin also looking dangerous, making some positive runs down the right channel.
But India slowly grew into the contest and came just millimetres away from levelling the scores in the tenth minute.
Confusion in the England defence after the ball evaded Anna Toman led to an almighty scramble on the line, with a miraculous recovery save from Maddie Hinch needed to keep the lead intact.
An early second quarter green card for Martin seemed to shift the momentum of the contest, with India enjoying greater territory.
Hinch was again called into action from a penalty corner, saving well down to her right from Gurjit Kaur’s effort.
But despite India’s domination and well executed press, they couldn’t level the scores.
After surviving for so long in the first half, England began to take the initiative in the third quarter and were rewarded with the game’s best moment.
A great interception from the influential Sophie Hamilton led her to drive towards the Indian circle.
The midfielder’s cross-shot towards the left hand post was met by a diving Howard to double England’s lead.
India continued to throw everything at England in the final quarter but remained toothless in attack.
And it was the host nation who got the all-important third goal from a penalty corner.
A powerful slap shot down the middle from Toman allowed Martin to deflect high into the goal past Indian captain Savita.
That knocked the stuffing out of India, though they did net a late consolation when a penalty corner routine finally paid off, touched in by Vandana.
But it was too little, too late for them and it is England who are guaranteed a place in the semi-finals on Friday.
The crucial win also had Royal approval with the Earl & Countess of Wessex, the patron of England Hockey, and their children Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn, spotted in the stands.
Also joining them were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their daughter Princess Charlotte.
Goalscorer Howard was delighted to help her team secure the win in front of their illustrious supporters.
“I didn’t actually know they were here so it was a really nice surprise,” she said. “It was a great game and I’m really proud of our team.
“It’s one of those goals you dream about in training and try to execute. As soon as Sophie got the ball I thought ‘it’s going to be crossed, I’m going to have to dive’
“If you’d have said that before the game we would have been very happy.
“Parts of the game we went into deep defence and we had to ride out the pressure. Maddie (Hinch) made an incredible save off the line at the beginning, it gave us all a boost to keep putting the pressure on.
“The English crowd really helped and it’s a great moment for us to make our mark on the tournament.”
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Looking to watch some more international action after the Commonwealth Games? Tickets for England women’s Euro qualifiers at Durham 25-28 August are on sale now.