England 0 Spain 2
Spain avenged their 3-1 defeat to England the day before by winning 2-0 at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on Sunday afternoon to join England on twelve points but having played two games more than their hosts.
Both of Spain’s previous victories had been on the road, 4-3 over India in Bhubaneswar in February and 2-1 in Antwerp against Belgium nine days earlier and they made it a hat-trick with a confident performance which also saw them keep their first clean sheet of the campaign.
Having been recalled to the England squad after helping Tilburg to promotion in the Netherlands, Maddie Hinch replaced Sabbie Heesh in goal in the starting lineup, together with four changes from Saturday’s victorious squad.
Darcy Bourne, Alex Malzer, Lizzie Neal and Martha Taylor came in for Tess Howard, Izzy Petter, Anna Toman and Lily Walker as Head Coach David Ralph rotated his squad.
Spain made two changes, Candela Mejias and Patricia Alvarez replacing Maria Lopez and Begoña Garcia, with Georgina Oliva inheriting the captain’s armband from Lopez.
As in Saturday’s game, both teams took time in the first quarter to settle down, with England going close in the 11th minute, Lily Owsley testing the Spanish defence by running through the 23 metre area and into the circle before forcing Jana Martinez to make a save.
Martinez was also called into action early in the second quarter when she cleared Malzer’s cross from the right and at the other end, Hinch kicked the ball away after Florencia Amundson’s contact with the ball was hindered by Grace Balsdon’s stick as both sides started to create chances.
Hinch was also tested as Spain forced two penalty corners in the 20th minute. Xantal Gine’s shot was deflected past the left post from the first and Hinch will be extremely disappointed that Gine managed to slip the ball through her and against the backboard from the second as Gine converted a penalty corner for the second day running to put Spain ahead for the first time over the weekend.
Three minutes later, England had the perfect opportunity to draw level as another dribbling and rotating run by Hannah Martin found Holly Hunt in the circle with just the goalkeeper to beat, but Hunt unluckily failed to control the ball in front of goal and the chance was wasted.
A minute before the interval, Fiona Crackles was hit painfully by Gine’s strike from Spain’s third penalty corner of the match but after some concern was shown, Crackles quickly rose to her feet to carry on.
Five minutes into the third quarter, Giselle Ansley’s pass of defence found Martha Taylor who ran towards goal before finally being dispossessed by Lara Pampin.
In the 39th minute, Oliva, received the only card of the match, spending two minutes on the naughty step after fouling Crackles who was on a run after receiving Oliva’s turnover.
A minute later, England finally forced their first penalty corner of the match after Bourne and Malzer combined, only for Balsdon’s drag-flick to be saved by Melanie Garcia who as on Saturday, replaced Martinez at the start of the second half.
In the 43rd minute, Spain lost their right to a video referral after challenging the award of England’s second penalty corner, from which Garcia made two excellent saves from Balsdon and Martin before Spain successfully cleared the ball from the circle.
Spain failed to convert from two successive penalty corners in the 51st minute whilst England, as Spain did the previous day, when finding themselves trailing with just over two minutes to play, replaced their goalkeeper with an eleventh outfield player.
Unfortunately, the tactic backfired as Spain sealed the victory, Marta Segu perfectly placed in front of goal to receive a pass from the right and score into an empty net from close range with just under a minute to end England’s hopes of forcing a shootout.
Although she only played half of the match, Garcia’s heroics were enough to earn her the Player of the Match award.
England face a doubleheader weekend against the Netherlands and Spain host China next.
Starters: Maddie Hinch (GK); Hannah Martin, Ellie Rayer, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Fiona Crackles, Sophie Hamilton, Lily Owsley, Flora Peel, Martha Taylor, Grace Balsdon.
Subs: Darcy Bourne (4 mins), Laura Unsworth (4), Holly Hunt (4), Lizzie Neal (4), Alex Malzer (5), Shona McCallin (7).
Sub not used: Sabbie Heesh (GK).
Scorers: Xantal Gine 20-PC, Marta Segu 60-F
Starters: Laura Barrios, Sara Barrios, Lara Pampin, Júlia Strappato, Lucia Jiminez, Marta Segu, Candela Mejias, Xantal Gine, Beatriz Perez, Georgina Oliva (Capt.), Jana Martinez (GK).
Subs: Florencia Amundson (4 mins), Constanza Amundson (4), Maialen Garcia (4), Laia Vidosa (4), Alejandra Torres-Quevedo (4), Patricia Alvarez (5), Melanie Garcia (GK) (31).
Cards: Green: Georgina Oliva (39 mins).
Umpires: Laurine Delforge (Belgium) and Sarah Wilson (Scotland).