Two goals apiece from Kate Richardson-Walsh and teenager Lily Owsley helped England to come from behind to beat Korea by six goals to two in their opening FIH World League Final Pool Game. The Koreans raced into a two goal lead inside the opening 20 minutes, but an Alex Danson strike before half time kept England in contention before a five-goal second half blitz secured the three points.
Korea could have taken the lead from their first attack. A long pass from half way found its way into the D where Ki Ju Park was all alone. She opted for power, blasting a shot at goal that Maddie Hinch did brilliantly to get her gloves to and keep out. At the other end, almost immediately England had a great chance of their own. Alex Danson robbed the defender inside the D on the right but her low shot whistled past the far post.
After 17 minutes Korea broke the deadlock. A well worked penalty corner was fired towards the right post where it was diverted back across goal to the original injector Ki Ju Park who had the simplest of tasks, sweeping home from close range.
Things got even better for Korea in the 20th minute. A bouncing cross from the right was not cleared and Seung A Park stole in at the near post ahead of Hinch to get a touch on the ball, diverting it into the corner to make it 2-0.
England seemed to be struggling to adapt to the heat and finding Korea’s high press difficult to get out of, but with time running out in the half they thought they’d pulled one back. Ashleigh Ball did well down the left and found Danson on the baseline, her hard hit cross was touched in by Nicola White, only to be ruled out on appeal for an earlier infringement.
Undeterred, England rallied and managed to hit back before the half time. A long spell of patient possession round the back was followed by a lovely pass into Sophie Bray. Bray’s pass was collected by a marauding Danson who burst into the D on the right at great pace before rifling a fierce shot into the bottom corner giving the goalkeeper no chance.
England came out after the break with a renewed sense of purpose. It took them just four minutes to get back on level terms. Hollie Webb’s penalty corner strike was charged down, but the Surbiton defender nudged the rebound to Georgie Twigg. Twigg smuggled the ball past the goalkeeper where Owsley pounced with a splendid shot on the turn to make it 2-2. England went close again when Kate Richardson-Walsh flicked another corner just wide but from the resultant restart Korea gave the ball away, resulting in Danson breaking free in the D only to be fouled for a penalty stroke. Twigg, in excellent goalscoring form domestically, stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with a calm, low flick and England had the lead for the first time.
Now it was the turn of Korea to struggle with England’s press. The strength and energy of Danson, Owsley and Susannah Townsend was making it difficult for the World No8 side to get out of their half and giving England control of the game. On 50 minutes Owsley notched her second of the match. Townsend drove into the D on the left, committing the defender superbly before drilling in a low cross. White’s touch deceived the goalkeeper and Owsley was on hand to stab home. Korea called for a referral but it was in vain and the University of Birmingham striker had her fourth international goal.
England were now rampant and Hye Lyoung Han bailed her goalkeeper out with a goal line clearance from an Alex Danson strike before Jason Lee’s side forced a flurry of penalty corners. Korea dealt with the first three of these but from the fourth Kate Richardson-Walsh beat Hye Sin Lee low to her right with a powerful drag flick to make it 5-2.
Korea briefly threatened in the dying moments, forcing consecutive penalty corners of their own but first a good save from Maddie Hinch and then some good defending from Owsley running out saw off the chances and preserved England’s three-goal cushion. With what proved to be the last play of the match, England put a gloss on the scoreline. Kate Richardson-Walsh picked up her second goal with a splendid drag flick that nestled right in the corner beyond the despairing dive of the goalkeeper.
Lee’s side had been made to work extremely hard for their win in the searing Tucamán heat but the England coach will be satisfied with the response from his team after the break.
England’s next match is against the Netherlands tomorrow, whilst Korea go up against Germany.