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EuroHockey: England 2 Ireland 1

PUBLISHED: 12:22 18 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:22 18 August 2019

England celebrate a goal against Ireland at the EuroHockey Championships in Belgium (pic England Hockey)

England celebrate a goal against Ireland at the EuroHockey Championships in Belgium (pic England Hockey)

Archant

England's women put in a clinical display to get off to the perfect start in their EuroHockey Championships with victory over Ireland.

Two goals from two penalty corners in the first half gave the side a strong advantage with Suzy Petty in the right place at the right time for the opening goal before Giselle Ansley fired a sensational drag flick into the top corner.

Ireland got one back at the end of the third quarter as Beth Barr latched onto the end of a drag flick to deflect it past Maddie Hinch in goal to set up a tense final 15 minutes.

As the clock ran down, both sides created good chances with resilient defending and a couple of smart saves from Hinch securing an opening victory for England.

Chances were limited in the opening quarter as both sides sized each other up, with neither 'keeper being truly tested.

When an opportunity did present itself to England, a penalty corner right on the cusp of the whistle, they were clinical as Ansley's flick found its way into the path of the unmarked Petty on the post to tap home for her first England goal.

England, who included Hampstead & Westminster newcomers Lily Owsley and Grace Balsdon as well as Havering's Emily Defroand, were looking good on the ball and had limited Ireland from making many circle entries in a solid opening half.

They were able to double their lead as fantastic dribbling from Hannah Martin was rewarded with a penalty corner.

England were again lethal from the set-piece with Ansley producing a spectacular drag flick that soared well out of the goalkeeper's reach into the top corner of the goal for a 2-0 lead going into half-time.

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Ellie Rayer went on a searing run on the right flank, using explosive pace to drive past several opposition players, although her pull back into the circle was well intercepted just before it could reach the looming Martin.

Ireland got themselves back into the game in the third quarter through a successful penalty corner routine of their own as Barr got a decisive deflection on the flick to guide it into the back of the net.

Izzy Petter, who was making her England debut, then had a strike on goal well saved by Ayeisha McFerran before Martin's follow-up attempt went wide.

The game had opened up with an end-to-end final quarter ensuing as both sides looked to add to the scoreline.

It was a dramatic end to the game with Hinch twice being called into action to deny the Irish from bagging a late equaliser, making solid saves with the right boot to keep the opposition out and secure an opening match victory.

Ansley said: "We're absolutely delighted to kickstart our tournament with a win and against Ireland as well - we know local derbies are always going to be tough games, so we're absolutely delighted.

"We know it's going to be a really tough game against Germany. They're a very different challenge and we know they like to have the ball for long periods of time, but we'll be ready for it."

Head coach Mark Hager added: "It was really good to get three points on the board from the first game. We knew it would be a tough, physical game and I thought we started really well.

"It was good to score from our penalty corners and we want to build on that performance for tomorrow as we know that too will be a tough one."

Next up for the team is a challenging fixture against Germany, who thrashed Belarus 13-0 in their first game of the tournament, on Monday August 19 at 12.30pm BST.

England: Hinch, Unsworth, Toman, Martin, Townsend, Petty, Rayer, Ansley, Pearne-Webb, Owsley, Petter. Subs: Evans, Howard, McCallin, Hunter, Balsdon, Defroand. Unused: Tennant.

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