England set up a quarter final tie with Italy after a hard fought 1-1 draw. Spain, showing a much improved performance secured a point and in doing so, leap-frogged South Africa to avoid the much-fancied Argentinians in Thursday’s matches. England withstood some early pressure as Maddie Hinch had to be alert to see off first Maria Lofaro and then Gloria Broto with two brave dashes from her line.
Roared on by a partisan home crowd, Alex Danson was the first to threaten the visitors’ goal as her excellent run and exchange of passes with Sophie Bray resulted in the Reading star hitting a diving reverse stick shot which Maria Zubiria had to save at the near post. With England starting to hit their stride the pressure started to fall on Spain. A quickly taken free hit by Georgie Twigg set up Ashleigh Ball but her shot crashed into the side boards. England forced a penalty corner, which was well saved by the goalkeeper from Hollie Webb’s flick and then Sam Quek and Lily Owsley were also frustrated by Zubiria, meaning the sides went in at the break level at 0-0.
At the start of the second half Danson twisted and turned in the D looking to manufacture some space, managing to get a shot away which was kicked clear by the Spain No.1.
The home side were now laying siege to the Spain goal and Kate Walsh tested the goalkeeper’s reflexes with a penalty corner which Zubiria did well to beat away.
On 54 minutes England took the lead from another penalty corner. Walsh’s slapped effort deflected into the air off a defender’s stick and Bray, showing terrific poacher’s instinct, diverted the ball into the net to send the crowd wild.
With their tails now up, England kept up the momentum and Bray showed excellent 3D skills to break into the D and move along the baseline on the left, she tried to squeeze the ball inside the near post but Zubiria was equal to the task.
Spain started to come back into the game and forced a series of penalty corners. Riera saw one such effort strike a foot on the line and a penalty stroke was duly awarded. The No.17 stepped forward to take it herself and drew the scores level despite a valiant effort from Maddie Hinch who got a good connection on the ball but could not keep it out.
With time running out Owsley and Sally Walton linked up well and set up a chance for Susie Gilbert, however the Reading star could only send her shot wide of the post.
England thought they had won a last-minute penalty corner, but it was overturned on Spain’s video referral.
Jason Lee was upbeat afterwards despite the surprise result: “We’re still developing our style and we didn’t quite get it right today. However we’re pleased to move onto the quarter finals where we’ll play a side we fancy our chances against.”
Adrian Lock, the Spain coach was also happy with the outcome: “We’re getting better each day and each game. I’m really pleased with how up for it the team were and how hard they fought. We wanted to avoid Argentina and that’s what we’ve done.”
Spain will face off against China at 5:30pm GMT on Thursday, whilst England face Italy in the last game of the day at 8pm.