England women began their defence of the EuroHockey Championships with a 4-1 victory over Ireland in Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon.
Ireland (ranked 16 in the world) performed better than the final result suggested against the reigning champions (WR 2), only trailing 1-0 at half time.
England took an early lead, Laura Unsworth’s attack from the right seeing her cross turned in by an Irish defender close to captain Alex Danson, with Surbiton’s Hannah Martin also well positioned in the circle.
Although England had plenty of possession, the Irish defence held firm, with Ireland very occasionally threatening to level, Roisin Upton forcing a fine save from Maddie Hinch from their first penalty corner.
Surbiton’s Giselle Ansley failed to score from England’s first two penalty corners, but it was third time lucky seven minutes after half time.
With England only leading 1-0, Ireland posed a threat, Ireland’s captain, Kathryn Mullan shooting narrowly wide, but following England’s subsequent attack, Ellie Watton, who came into the England squad to replace Nicola White due to injury, deflected the ball at the left post from Ellie Rayer’s shot to double England’s lead from their third penalty corner.
Ireland battled back five minutes later with England down to ten players with Susannah Townsend in the sin-bin. Elena Tice converted Ireland’s second penalty corner, her shot somehow evading England’s penalty corner defenders and nestling in the netting to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
A minute later, England’s two goal advantage was restored, a breakaway attack seeing Lily Owsley’s through pass just touched by Danson through to former Surbiton player, Sophie Bray, who finished quickly standing in front of Irish goalkeeper, Grace O’Flanagan.
With five minutes remaining, Danson got on the scoresheet from England’s seventh penalty corner, Zoe Shipperley forcing a save from the Irish goalkeeper, only for Danson to chip the rebound into the goal from close range.
England threatened to add further goals by forcing more penalty corners, Surbiton’s Sarah Haycroft blasting the ball past the right post from their final penalty corner in the penultimate minute after the injection was misdirected towards her.
However, the final score was 4-1, matching Germany’s margin over Scotland with the joint leaders scheduled to meet on Sunday afternoon at 4.45 pm BST.
Martin, Ansley and Hollie Webb, who had another excellent day in defence, were all in the England starting line-up, with Emily Defroand coming on in the sixth minute, Haycroft a minute later and Jo Hunter joining the action on the quarter-hour.
The England Hockey match report can be found here
Belgium went top of Pool A after a convincing 6-0 win over the Czech Republic.
More information about the tournament can be found in the Match Centre section of the FIH website here
The games are being shown on BT Sport.