Hosts England began their Commonwealth Games campaign at the University of Birmingham in record breaking form, routing Ghana 12-0 to earn their biggest ever victory at a Commonwealth Games, surpassing their 10-0 victory over Barbados in Melbourne in 2006.
England 12 Ghana 0
Commonwealth Games Pool A
Ghana, participating in their second Commonwealth Games, and having lost 5-0 to India the day before, had also lost 12-0 to New Zealand in their first ever Commonwealth Games pool match on the Gold Coast in 2018, when nine New Zealand players found the net. In 2022, eight England players appeared on the scoresheet with Grace Balsdon and Hannah Martin both notching hat-tricks.
Eight of England’s 12 goals came from penalty corners, a fifty per cent conversion rate from the 16 opportunities they had during the match. But for Ghana successfully using their video referral in the 13th and 20th minutes, England would have won another two penalty corners giving them 18 awards.
England goalkeeper, Sabbie Heesh was a virtual spectator for the whole 60 minutes as England were completely dominant. Izzy Petter struck the left post in the fourth minute, but shortly afterwards, Ghana conceded their first penalty corner, from which Giselle Ansley’s shot was saved by Abigail Boye.
Although Martin and Sophie Hamilton had shots saved by Boye from open play, the breakthrough came in the tenth minute courtesy of Balsdon’s penalty corner conversion to settle any nerves England may have had on home turf.
Martin doubled England’s lead at the end of the first quarter, deflecting Anna Toman’s shot past Boye, but there was drama as the umpires asked for a video referral to check whether the ball had left the circle. With no advice possible due to no clear view, the goal was allowed to stand.
Balsdon struck again in the 19th minute from England’s fifth penalty corner with Ghana holding out until the 27h minute before Ansley scored England’s fourth goal to complete a run of four successive penalty corner goals.
A minute later, England scored their first open play goal of the tournament, Fiona Crackles and Tess Howard both having shots saved by Boye before the ball fell perfectly for Holly Hunt to poke home from close range.
In 2006, England had led Barbados 3-0 at half time, but in both games, scored seven goals in the second half, although the 2006 match was played over two halves of 35 minutes.
England were on fire early in the third quarter, Howard scoring in defiant fashion in the 33rd minute before another Martin defection from a Toman penalty corner a minute later, extended the host’s advantage to 7-0.
In the 38th minute, Toman forced a save from Ghana goalkeeper Bridget Azumah, who replaced Boye at half time, only for Lily Owsley to force the ball into the net at the right post from England’s twelfth penalty corner.
Trailing 8-0 going into the fourth quarter, Ghana were stunned by three goals in two minutes, started with Balsdon completing her hat-trick from England’s fourteenth penalty corner in the 47th minute.
Toman finally got her name on the scoresheet a minute later from England’s fifteenth award, but Martin ensured that she completed her own treble seconds later from open play.
The twelfth and final goal was a stunning finish from Laura Unsworth with Azumah only able to watch the ball rocket into the netting.
England face Canada at 1900 on Sunday. Canada finished fifth in 2018 and last played England in the Commonwealth Games in 2010, when England won 4-1 in Delhi. Canada didn’t play on Saturday but beat Wales 4-0 in their opening match on Friday.
Scorers: Grace Balsdon 10-PC, 19-PC, 47-PC; Hannah Martin 15-PC, 34-PC, 48-F; Giselle Ansley 27-PC,
Holly Hunt 28-F, Tess Howard 33-F, Lily Owsley 38-PC, Anna Toman 48-PC, Laura Unsworth 54-F.
Starters: Laura Unsworth, Anna Toman, Hannah Martin, Ellie Rayer, Izzy Petter, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Fiona Crackles, Sabbie Heesh (GK), Lily Owsley, Flora Peel.
Subs: Holly Hunt (5 mins), Lily Walker (5), Tess Howard (5), Sophie Hamilton (5), Shona McCallin (5), Grace Balsdon (5).
Sub not used: Maddie Hinch (GK).
Cards: Green: Flora Peel (21 mins).
Starters: Ernestina Coffie, Hagiet Copson, Nafisatu Umaru (Capt.), Adizatu Sulemana, Cecilia Amoako, Elizabeth Opoku, Lydia Afriyie, Martha Sarfoa, Abigail Boye (GK), Eleanor Otoo, Dede Okine.
Subs: Vivian Narkuor (4 mins), Racheal Bamfo (4), Serwaa Boakye (5), Mavis Berko (5), Roberta Owusu (5), Doris Antwi (9), Bridget Azumah (GK) (31).
Umpires: Rhiannon Murrie (Australia) and Wanri Venter (South Africa).