ENGLAND 3-2 (HT:3-1) ITALY
For England: Alex Danson (3, 25, FG, FG); Hannah Macleod (24, FG)
For Italy: Macarena Ronsisvalli (7, PC); Agustina Di Bernardo (56, PS)
Hannah Macleod makes her 50th appearance for England as she and Alex Danson give England three goals to take them through to a Semi-Final showdown against Argentina on Saturday (Schedule here). All of England’s goals came in the first half and after Italy pulled the score back to 3-2 they pushed the home side all the way to the wire as they searched for an equaliser in the closing stages.
Speaking after the game, England’s Head Coach Jason Lee said, “Of course we’re overjoyed that we won the game, and three months ago we would have taken this position, sitting in the top four teams. We’re quite a new group and we expected the competition to be tough. We started to run out of legs a bit, the nerves started to kick in and our inexperience started to show. I think Italy are playing above 17 in the FIH world rankings and no doubt they’ll be pushing hard on the European stage soon. They broke down tackle after tackle, finding their way into our circle which certainly made it nerve wracking. It was quite a tense game for everyone and we’re very pleased with the outcome. Once again tonight the girls fought so hard for the win and I think that’s what has ultimately helped us get here.”
The game was off to a strong start after Alex Danson scored within the first three minutes. After MOP’s (NED) Sophie Bray ran the ball up the line to Reading’s Kate Walsh in the circle, a pass to her teammate Danson was smartly tapped away to put England on the scoreboard. Italy weren’t to be held back, as three minutes later they worked a ball into England’s circle to score equalizer but England’s team referral saw the goal disallowed, but a penalty corner was awarded to Italy. While the first strike was initially saved, a fight for the ball ensued and Macarena Ronsisvalli angled her stick cleverly to chip her shot over Holcombe’s Maddie Hinch and take the score to 1-1.
Not a side to go down without a fight, Italy continued to try pushing England back into their own half. A few long balls saw the Italian side running up the field, but they were unable to make anything of it and the scores remained tied. The stalemate was broken when Danson managed to break through the Italian line in the 24th minute and a sequence of good passes allowed Leicester’s Hannah Macleod to tap the ball in behind the Italian goalkeeper and score on her 50th appearance. Only a minute later Danson followed it up with her second goal of the match as she ran alone to challenge the goalkeeper and send the ball home with a trademark reverse stick shot into the left corner. After some tense moments in the last ten minutes of the half including a penalty corner for Italy, England went into the break 3-1 up.
The second half saw England come straight back into attack, putting the pressure on Italy immediately. But after an unfortunate change of events, England saw themselves on the defending end of a penalty corner and then a series of on target shots from the Italian side. Goalkeeping star Hinch was up to the task, making impressive saves assisted by teammates Sam Quek and Macleod. Both made fearless tackles and turned play over to England’s advantage.
England seemed to be on top of the game up until the 56th minute where Italy scored their second goal of the game. The Italian side called to the video umpire for a second opinion after a foot in the circle behind the goal keeper; a penalty stroke against England was awarded as a result. A one on one showdown saw Hinch against Agustina Di Bernardo, and resulted in Italy’s second goal as Hinch just couldn’t get enough of her body to the ball to make the save. Despite being pushed hard England held their own against Italy and saw the game out to seal a 3-2 victory and a place in Saturday’s Semi-Final.
Speaking after the game, Kate Walsh gave her thoughts about facing the FIH world number two side, “For Argentina we should go in with no fear. We need to approach the game not thinking of individual players but of our own play, and we need to show that fearlessness of youth which I think we have in our squad – we’re really looking forward to this match.”
England will play Argentina in the Semi-Final on Saturday at 17:30. Tickets are available on the gate.