Women’s Pool B: England 2 (S Petty, G Ansley) Ireland 1 (B Barr)
Ireland’s women produced a rousing last quarter but could not find an equaliser from their opening Belfius EuroHockey Championships tie in Antwerp.
Trailing 2-0 at half-time to a pair of penalty corner goals, Ireland bossed large parts of the second half with Beth Barr getting one back with 17 minutes to go.
And they had chance after chance in the closing 10 minutes but could not find a way past the defences of two-time world goalkeeper of the year Maddie Hinch.
“We’re pretty frustrated with the result, not the performance we put in, especially in the second half,” captain Katie Mullan said afterwards.
“We were a bit slow to start but they felt our pressure in the second half and we could have done with a couple more minutes at the end. We would have got the goal with another quarter!
“But it does say a lot about where we are at and where we are moving to. It wasn’t about hanging on. For us, we controlled phases of the game, had a lot of opportunities. In the past against England, it would be a different story so that is a positive.
“It was a physical game, some hard tackles from both sides. I personally enjoy that bit of physicality, a good battle.”
In the first half, England took what looked like full control in the first half with penalty corner goals in either quarter for a 2-0 advantage.
Hannah Martin was the key player, her bounding runs causing plenty of problems, and she won the corner which led to their opening goal.
Ayeisha McFerran saved Ansley’s first shot but Anna Toman kept the ball live and, after a couple of swipes, Petty nudged in at the left post for 1-0.
Ansley doubled the lead from another set piece, a breath-taking drag-flick that was too quick for the out-stretched reach of McFerran.
For Ireland, the pick of their first half manoeuvres came in the last minute via a corner. Roisin Upton’s push took a deflection from Anna O’Flanagan, hopping and skipping over Maddie Hinch but Toman was in place to clear up.
But, after a scrappy phase of the game, Ireland got a goal back from their second corner while England were down to 10 players with Martin on a yellow. Chloe Watkins – who was outstanding in midfield – won the corner and then slapped the ball into Beth Barr whose touch made it through Hinch, setting up a fascinating final quarter.
Martin thrashed inches wide with a great chance before Ireland started to step on once again, creating chance after chance. Cards became more prevailent, too, with Zoe Wilson and Sarah Evans taking yellows.
Maddie Hinch made two hugely important saves while Shirley McCay’s penalty corner shot went inches wide as England held on to their slender lead and all three points.
Ireland play Belarus on Monday (2.45pm, Irish time in a quick turnaround, hoping to get their first win of the campaign. Belarus lost 13-0 to Germany and so a victory is imperative.
“You’ve got to move on very quickly in tournament hockey. We won’t reflect too much on today but we will look to control and play like the second half to tee up a big game for ourselves against Germany.”
Ireland: A McFerran, N Evans, L Tice, K Mullan, B Barr, L Colvin, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke, A Meeke
Subs: R Upton, G Pinder, S McCay, C Watkins, S Hawkshaw, L Murphy, N Daly
England: M Hinch, L Unsworth, A Toman, H Martin, S Townsend, S Petty, E Rayer, G Ansley, H Pearne-Webb, L Owsley, I Petter
Subs: S Evans, T Howard, E Deforand, S McCallin, J Hunter, G Balsdon, A Tennant