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EuroHockey: England 2 Wales 2

PUBLISHED: 16:34 17 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:34 17 August 2019

England's Samuel Ward celebrates his goal against Wales (pic WSP Koen Suyk)

England's Samuel Ward celebrates his goal against Wales (pic WSP Koen Suyk)

WORLDSPORTPICS.COM/Koen Suyk

England had to settle for a point from their EuroHockey Championship opener with Wales in Belgium on Saturday.

Despite controlling large parts of the game, with long spells of possession, England found Wales to be stubborn opponents with an organised defensive shape proving hard to break down.

Though England did open the scoring with a fierce Sam Ward drag flick just before half-time, Wales responded immediately after with one of their own.

Wales profited as England looked to secure a winner in the final quarter with Rhodri Furlong's cross being deflected in by Henry Weir inside the final 10 minutes.

But England were able to secure a point with a late equaliser as a well-worked penalty corner routine was finished by James Gall.

Wales started brightly with Ward forced into making a block on the line to deny the opposition from scoring from a penalty corner inside the opening few minutes.

After the early scare, England found their footing and bossed the possession count for the remainder of the half, making numerous circle entries without being able to really test the Welsh keeper.

The second quarter continued in the same ilk, as England persistently looked for a breakthrough goal but resilient defending from the Welsh side continued to keep them at bay.

Having previously dragged one attempt narrowly wide, Ward ensured England would go into the half-time break with the advantage as his searing drive from a penalty corner thundered underneath the keeper.

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Despite struggling to threaten in the opening 30 minutes, Wales responded immediately in the second half as Gareth Furlong's drag flick soared into the back of the net.

A well contested quarter ensued as both sides pressed on looking to take the lead with good opportunities being created at either end of the field.

With the quarter coming to a close England twice looked likely as Calnan shot wide before Chris Griffiths' ball across goal was intercepted to deny it reaching the onrushing Phil Roper.

Ramping up the pressure in the final quarter, Ward again came close from a penalty corner with the ball being fired just wide of the target.

But it was Wales who managed to deal the next blow as Rhodri Furlong's cross deflected off Weir and into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.

England pressed on with George Pinner withdrawn for the final five minutes for an extra outfield player and made the most of the numerical advantage. Having earned a penalty corner, a well-worked routine saw Ashley Jackson roll the ball into the path of Gall who expertly guided it past the 'keeper for a late equaliser.

Captain Adam Dixon said: "It's a long tournament and we know we've got to pick it up again and go tomorrow so our next 24 hour focus is firmly on that Belgium game.

"Wales are a very good side, well organised with a good coach in Zak Jones, and they put us under a lot of pressure from the first minute which we expected. We knew it was going to be a tight game.

"Belgium are the world champions and will punish any side that are off it by even 1% so we've got to make sure we debrief fully and respect the opponent tomorrow."

Next up for England is a tough test against Belgium, who defeated Spain 5-0 on Friday evening, at 5pm BST in their second match of the group stage.

England: Pinner, Ames, Jackson, Martin, Sloan, Ward, Roper, Dixon, Creed, Calnan, Wallace. Subs: Willars, Weir, Griffiths, Waller, Gall, Sorsby. Unused: Gibson.

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