Having improved game on game throughout the group stages, England were entering the quarter finals with the momentum of 3 strong wins behind them. Opponents Ireland had also demonstrated some solid performances throughout the tournament, narrowly missing out on placing top to a brawny Scotland team.
Both nations had a point to prove and after the some heartfelt anthems, both teams were fired up and ready to go. England had looked controlled and composed in their previous match against Norway, but Ireland would prove to be a step up for the defence, who had only conceded 3 goals so far in the tournament.
The first whistle blew and a flurry of white and green scrambled for the first draw control. England’s defensive unit came up trumps, with a ground ball snapped up by Chloe Chan, allowing from some excellent transition from Sophie Whitehead and Asha Niven up to the attack. England’s Sophie Morrill found Sophie Brett for a quick feed and shot to open the score.
A minute later, Asha Niven used her speed to break free from the defensive end to assist Sarah Taylor, taking the score to 2-0.
With another goal from Laura Merrifield, England were beginning to find their stride, but the girls in green had an answer. Capitalising on a man-up play after a yellow card for England, Noreen Anderson found the net for Ireland, taking the score to 3-1 in favour of England. Another free position for shooting space saw Ireland take the score to 3-2.
England did not allow the pressure to get to them, with defender Emma Oakley causing a positive turnover to allow the ball to go up to the attack. Sarah Taylor and Charl Lytollis then scored a goal apiece to take the score to 5-2. Ireland answered with a free position shot to take the score to 5-3, still biting at England’s heels.
A water break allowed for a regroup for both teams. England’s midfield and attack came back with a display of speed, power and quick hands from Camilla Hayes, Sarah Taylor and Sophie Brett to score a goal each. With a further goal from Ireland (which would be their last of the game) and 2 more from England, the half time score was at 9-4 in favour of England.
The second half began with a quick fire goal from Sophie Brett, assisted by Ruby Smith, which set the tone for the rest of the half. Through some up and down play, England’s defence and midfield held strong, with some great checks from Emily Gray and some dogged re-defending from attacker Torz Anderson.
England continued to push the fast break and controlled the tempo of the game, seeing Sophie Brett, Emily Gray and Camilla Hayes take the score to 12-4. Ireland fought hard, but didn’t manage to come up with an answer; England’s defence cranked up the pressure and turned the ball over time and time again.
Showing the depth of the squad, Torz Anderson, Claire Faram, Katie Lehovsky and Sophie Morrill also came up on the scoresheet, as well as further goals from Sarah Taylor, Charl Lytollis and Sophie Brett. But it was straight defender Asha Niven who had the last word, awarded a free position in the last second of the match.
The whistle blew and she powered the ball between the goal keepers legs to end the game at 23-4. England had 11 goal scorers in the game and 65% of goals were assisted; it was a real team effort and the team are heading into the semi-finals with confidence and control.
Written by: Claire Faram
Photo Credit: Paul Brett