England got their Eurohockey Championships campaign off to a perfect start with a comfortable win over Spain, in Belgium this morning.
Goals from Hannah Macleod, Captain, Kate Walsh and Lily Owsley were enough to overcome Adrian Lock’s side who rarely threatened Maddie Hinch’s goal.
England started brightly and could have gone ahead in the first minute of the match. Susannah Townsend found Ashleigh Ball on the baseline but the No22’s cross was deflected over by Macleod at the back post.
Jason Lee’s side didn’t have to wait long for their opening goal however, as they opened the scoring on four minutes. Walsh fired in a penalty corner that was well saved by the goalkeeper. The ball broke to Macleod who had time to steady herself before picking her spot and beating Maria Lopez at the near post.
England were looking full of energy and could have extended their lead as Alex Danson fizzed a reverse stick cross-shot past the far post with no one able to get a touch, before Walsh had a penalty corner charged down by the runner.
The England skipper had better luck not long after from another penalty corner as she found the bottom corner with a precise flick that Lopez could not reach.
The pace and close control of Owsley and Danson was causing havoc in the Spanish defence as time and again, the duo got away from their markers winning free hits and creating dangerous situations almost at will.
Early in the second half, England produced arguably the move of the match: Danson played a lovely reverse stick pass into Helen Richardson just outside the D. Richardson showed good vision and played another reverse stick pass inside Xatal Gine to find Nicola White in the D, but the Leicester striker’s slapped effort was kicked clear by Lopez.
England grabbed their third goal and Danson was involved once again. A long run showing excellent strength and control before she found Townsend on the baseline. Her cross took a slight deflection but Owsley reacted quickest, turning and firing in from close range.
Danson continued to terrorise the Spain defence. Another mazy dribble saw her move from the right of the D to the left but her tomahawk strike was a fraction too high. Seconds later, in a similar position, the Reading star went close but Lola Riera did brilliantly to block her shot and send it wide.
Spain gave England’s defence a scare from a broken down penalty corner but Riera’s bouncing shot was saved by Hinch and the rebound was hit wide.
Spain changed their goalkeeper with Lopez being replaced by Maria Ruiz. Ruiz was immediately called into action, bravely using her body to block a half-volley from point blank range by Nicola White.
With the teams seemingly accepting the game was won, the contest became a bit scrappy with both sides giving the ball away a number of times and neither side showing a great deal of ambition. Giselle Ansley was unlucky not to put a gloss on the scoreline when her penalty corner was deflected over by Rocio Ibarra, but that was the closest the game came to another goal.
Speaking afterwards, Captain Kate Walsh said: ” We’re reasonably happy with that. A clean sheet and a good win to settle the nerves for the tournament, however we’ve got lots more to give. It’s a bit of a cliche but we’re taking this one game at a time, so we’ll focus on Germany in our next game, now.”
Jason Lee’s side will hope to continue their good start against a strong German side. That game is at 13:00 GMT tomorrow.