England finally picked up their first win of the competition with a hard-earned 3-1 win over a stubborn Germany side. The competition has been a disaster for Jason Lee and his players who had posted four successive defeats before today, but they got themselves over the line in this contest with goals from Hannah McLeod, Susie Gilbert and a blockbuster from Susannah Townsend. Hannah Kruger’s penalty corner 14 minutes from time proved to be just a consolation.
The win does not change England’s fortunes in terms of pool qualification; they were unable to overhaul South Africa’s goal difference and will play Belgium for 11th-12th place. However, the win over European Champions Germany will have gone some way to repairing the group’s fragile confidence, allowing them the chance to rebuild before the Commonwealth Games later this summer.
The first half was a cagey affair as you’d expect from two sides lacking in confidence such as these two. Alex Danson had a sniff of an opening on 11 minutes but could not get her shot away whilst at the other end Julia Muller’s penalty corner strike was too high and Lydia Haase was just wide with a deflection.
Eight minutes after the break England took the lead. A splendid run from Nicola White down the left hand side caused problems in the German defence. With the ball breaking to Hannah MacLeod the No6 showed good composure, rolling away from the goalkeeper before slotting home to make it 1-0.
In the 49th minute England extended their lead. Susie Gilbert broke free into the D and although her cross was aimed for Sophie Bray, it clipped a defender and rolled into the corner, with the goal credited to the Reading star. Six minutes later it was 3-0. Townsend robbed Hannah Kruger just outside the D and then rifled a bullet strike through the goalkeeper for her first World Cup goal. Germany reduced the arrears a minute later with a Kruger penalty corner but there was to be no nightmare for England this time and they could even have extended their lead but for a superb save by Barbara Vogel to deny Ashleigh Ball.
The theme of the post-match comments was relief but also the need to learn lessons from the tournament. Defender Laura Unsworth told The Top of the D:
“We finally ground out a win which was nice. We put away our chances today, although we didn’t get many. Germany are a strong team but we managed to take the openings we created. We still felt we had something to prove in this tournament. We’re still ranked three in the world and there’s a lot of rivalry with Germany so we wanted to play well and put a stamp on the tournament, even at this late stage”.
“For me, this is the first international tournament where things haven’t gone to plan and we haven’t won the games we should. It’s been a massive learning curve for all of us and will only make us stronger as a team. If we go a goal down we know we’re still in the game. There’s a lot we can take away from this tournament and take to the Commonwealths in a few weeks.” she added: “You learn a lot from losses. It’s not a great feeling at the moment but hopefully we can look back and see this is as the making of this team and come out of the next tournament with a medal.”
England will round off their World Cup campaign with the 11th-12th playoff against Belgium on Thursday.