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Captain Rani celebrates. Pic credit: Getty Images/FIH

England delight home crowd as they find winning formula: USA ousted out by determined India

July 29, 2018

The second and final session brought the curtain down on the pool phase, with two crucial matches in Pool D taking place in front of another vociferous crowd at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

India (WR:10) started the day ahead of USA (WR:7) on goal difference, meaning that the USA would need a victory to be absolutely certain of progressing through to the play-off phase at the expense of the Asian continental champions.

Much to the delight of USA coach Janneke Schopman, the Americans opened the scoring 11 minutes into a thrilling encounter through Margaux Paolino, who squeezed a shot through the legs of India goalkeeper Savita a split second after the shot-stopper had superbly denied teenage sensation Erin Matson.

It was a lead that USA held until half time, although with six shots and four penalty corners in the first two periods, India were doing everything in their power to swing the match back in their favour.

The Eves were thwarted by USA goalkeeper Jackie Briggs, who pulled off some terrific blocks to keep her side ahead.

India dragged themselves level just a minute into the third quarter, with the goal coming from a reliable source. Team captain and prolific scorer Rani – who limped off the field with an injured ankle just three minutes into the contest but later returned to the action – restored parity with a low penalty strike, finally finding a way past Briggs.

Remarkably, it proved to be the final goal of the contest, with India doing just enough to ensure that they had secured a berth in the play-off matches.

"We have been playing well in all our games but we haven't been able to score,”, said Rani after the match. “Our coach (Sjoerd Marijne) just said, 'believe in yourselves, you are doing very well, we just need an outcome'. We went 1-0 down today but at half time he said, 'come on, you have just 30 minutes left. Let's put everything into the game’. USA created a lot of chances and Savita and the defence played very well. It was a case of who wanted the game more and I think, today, we just wanted it that little bit more."

While USA had failed to get the draw that they so desperately needed, mathematically they were still not out of it ahead of the final Pool B match between Pool winners Ireland (WR:16) and host nation England (WR:2).

A 3-1 defeat for the home favourites against the Green Army would trigger a shoot-out between England and USA for a place in the play-offs. A 1-0 defeat at the hands of Ireland also had ramifications, with England then facing a shoot-out with India to decide the second and third placements in the pool.

However, neither of those scenarios would come to fruition as England battled to a hard fought 1-0 victory to confirm themselves as the second-place finisher in Pool B.

With 62 per cent possession, 39 circle penetrations and 15 penalty corners, England were the dominant force and fully deserved their victory over an Ireland team that were incredibly hard to break down. Not for the first time at this event, Ireland goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran made a string of brilliant saves for her side, ensuring the scores remained locked at 0-0 until the breakthrough eventually arrived with seven minutes of the match remaining.

The goal came from a penalty corner, with Giselle Ansley’s powerful drag-flick taking a big deflection from the stick of Hannah Matthews which gave McFerran little chance of saving.

Goalscorer for England, Giselle Ansley said: "We are not going to shy away from the fact we didn't convert penalty corners. It is something we need to deal with."

Ireland's captain Kathryn Mullan, sporting an ice-pack on an injured shoulder, said: "We came out today to give a performance and to try certain things ahead of our quarter final. There is plenty for us to work on, so we will recover and then look at the next match. Everyone worked so incredibly hard out there, our defence was awesome."

Talking about the number of unconverted penalty corners in the match, Susannah Townsend said: "Our penalty corners are good. Ireland defended them well but we are doing the right thing. Maybe they will all come flooding in during the next games. We are not worried, they will start going in."

Cross-over fixtures (all times UTC +1)

Monday 30 July

18:00: Belgium (2nd Pool D) v Spain (3rd Pool C).
Winner to play Germany in quarter-finals
20:15: Argentina (2nd Pool C) v New Zealand (3rd Pool D)
Winner to play Australia in quarter-finals

Tuesday 31 July

18:00: Italy (2nd Pool A) v India (3rd Pool B)
Winner to play Ireland in quarter-finals
20:15: England (2nd Pool B) v Korea (3rd Pool A)
Winner to play Netherlands in quarter-finals


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