England have set up a Semi-Final clash against Australia on Saturday following a narrow 1-0 victory over Quarter-Final opponents China at the Argentina World League Final. Despite the score line, it was a dominant display from England, with Georgie Twigg converting a penalty stroke in the 46th minute of the game to take them through to the top four.
Earlier in the day the Netherlands beat New Zealand 1-0 in the first match, and Australia–Germany went all the way to the wire with the Hockeyroos eventually winning 4-2 in a penalty shoot out. And the hosts Argentina defeated Korea 3-1 in last quarter final to set up semis against Netherlands.
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England’s Alex Danson and Susie Gilbert both received flowers before the match to mark milestone appearances for England & GB; Danson earning her 200th and Gilbert her 100th combined caps.
Speaking after the game England Head Coach Jason Lee said, “It was a good game to win tonight, although we would have liked to score more. There is no doubt that we were in charge across the 70 minutes; China did not have a single attempt on goal all night.”
England’s Susie Gilbert secured the penalty stroke on her 100th combined appearance and added her thoughts on the game, “It was a good team performance, we controlled the game from start to finish and defended resolutely all night. It was great for Twiggy [Georgie] to score the penalty stroke in the second half and I think it was just reward for us. I feel so proud to have got to this milestone [100 combined caps] and it makes it even more special to share it with such a fantastic group of girls on a night like this.”
England enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the game creating numerous goal scoring opportunities, however China approached the game in a typically disciplined manner and with a well organised defence they were able to minimise much of England’s attacking prowess.
During the first 35 minutes England created a handful of scoring opportunities through the familiar names of Lily Owsley, Alex Danson and Kate Richardson-Walsh, but they were unable to break through the defence of the world number seven side and as the players went in for half-time there was nothing to separate them at 0-0.
The second half continued in much the same way as the first until the 46th minute when a shot by Gilbert, making her 100th (combined England & GB) appearance, was stopped by a Chinese defender’s body as it went goal bound. Georgie Twigg stepped up to take the resulting penalty stroke, but it was saved by Li in China’s goal. A confab between the umpires ensued and the resulting decision was for the penalty stroke to be re-taken after it was judged that Li had stepped forward before Twigg had taken the stroke. This time Twigg made no mistake, firing the ball low to the right of Li giving her little chance to even react.
At 1-0 up England looked in control. Maddie Hinch in England’s goal was not troubled all night, in no small part thanks to a strong England defence once again. Sam Quek was in fantastic form and looked dangerous everytime she got the ball; in the dying minutes she tracked back to make a match saving tackle to deny Liang and to ensure that England took the victory and booked their place in the Semi-Finals.
Looking ahead to the Australia game on Saturday, Lee added, “In my opinion Australia have been the team on form so far this year and certainly have played the best hockey in this tournament alongside the Netherlands. Last time we played them was at Chiswick in the Investec World League Semi Final; it was a tight affair there and I’m sure it will be the same on Saturday. Both sides will get their chances, but it will come down to who will take them.”
Tomorrow is a rest day for the teams as they prepare for their Semi-Final and placing battles on Saturday. England will play Australia at 21:30 GMT on Saturday. All matches are being streamed live on the FIH YouTube Channel, Schedule here.