Commonwealth Games Pool A
Canada 0 England 1
England beat Canada 1-0 at the University of Birmingham on Sunday night to win their opening two pool games for the fifth successive Commonwealth Games and if they can beat India on Tuesday, they can match their record of winning their first three games, which they set in 2006 in Melbourne, where they beat Canada 5-0, Scotland 5-0 and Barbados 10-0 before losing 4-0 to New Zealand in their fourth game.
England also maintained their one hundred per cent Commonwealth Games record against Canada, having won 2-1 in 1998, 6-1 in 2002, 5-0 in 2006 and 4-1 in 2010, before having to wait twelve years for the teams to cross paths again.
Although England dominated possession, Canada’s defence held firm, goalkeeper Rowan Harris was only beaten by Anna Toman’s penalty corner in the 20th minute, as ten further shots were saved.
At the other end, Maddie Hinch, back in goal after Sabbie Heesh had stood between the posts against Ghana, again had very little to do due to England’s dominance with the hosts continually frustrated by Canada’s hard working defence.
Whilst down at Wembley, England’s footballers were soon to make history at European level, their hockey counterparts made a bright start in the Midlands, Hannah Martin testing Harris in the second minute and Ellie Rayer forcing a save five minutes later. Grace Balsdon saw her shot from England’s first penalty corner in the eighth minute well blocked and before the first quarter ended, Lily Owsley had set up a chance for Flora Peel to put wide of the left post and Izzy Petter forced another save as England sought the all-important breakthrough.
England kept up the pressure in the second quarter with Martin again being denied by Harris, before Toman finally found a way through the Canadian defence from England’s third penalty corner. Shortly afterwards another Toman penalty corner shot was blocked, with Madeline Secco having a rare shot opportunity for Canada. Harris thwarted Tess Howard from open play and Hollie Pearne-Webb from a penalty corner as England began to wonder what they had to do to breakdown their opponents’ stubborn defence.
A quieter third quarter saw Ansley’s shot saved from the hosts’ sixth penalty corner before Martin failed to convert from Ansley’s penetrating Crossfield pass.
Laura Unsworth’s excellent pass gave Howard the chance to double England’s lead midway through the fourth quarter, only for Harris to be the spoiler again with another save. Canada replaced Harris with an eleventh outfield player with just 76 seconds remaining as they aimed to snatch an unlikely equaliser, but England managed to keep them at bay and time ran out to prevent Canada gaining a point.
The win moved England to the top of Pool A, on goal difference ahead of India, England’s next opponents at 1400 BST on Tuesday.
England have previously met India on five occasions at the Commonwealth Games, with both teams winning twice and one match drawn. England won the 1998 semi-final 2-0 and the Bronze Medal match 6-0 in 2018. India had won 2-1 in Pool A in 2018 and won the Gold Medal match 3-2 after extra time in 2002, after the teams had drawn 1-1 in Pool B.
Starters: Melanie Scholz, Jordyn Faiczak, Madison Thompson, Sara Goodman, Karli Johansen, Natalie Sourisseau, Sara McManus (Capt.), Amanda Woodcroft, Madeline Secco, Brienne Stairs, Rowan Harris (GK).
Subs: Hannah Haughn (2 mins), Grace Delmotte (3), Chloe Walton (4), Audrey Sawers (7), Anna Mollenhauer (8), Alexis de Armond (8).
Sub not used: Marcia Laplante (GK).
Scorer: Anna Toman 20-PC
Starters: Maddie Hinch (GK); Laura Unsworth, Anna Toman, Hannah Martin, Ellie Rayer, Izzy Petter, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Fiona Crackles, Lily Owsley, Flora Peel.
Subs: Holly Hunt (3 mins), Shona McCallin (3), Grace Balsdon (3), Sophie Hamilton (5), Lily Walker (6), Tess Howard (7).
Sub not used: Sabbie Heesh (GK).
Umpires: Aleisha Neumann (Australia) and Cookie Tan (Singapore).