Canada fell 1-0 to a tenacious England side in Game 2 of their Commonwealth Games campaign hosted at the picturesque campus of the University of Birmingham.
Canada women went into this Pool A match knowing that they would be facing a real battle. Not only do England sit nine places above the Wolf Pack in the FIH World Rankings (England WR:5, CAN WR 14) but they had all the benefits of a home crowd that was excited to see their team in action.
That said, Canada went into this game with all the confidence that their 4-0 win over Wales would have given them. For their part, England’s opening match had been a 12-0 victory over Ghana.
“The team played well today but we need to find a way to find a bigger attacking presence,” said head coach Rob Short after the match. “We need to maintain more possession in attack and as a group we need to start with more confidence on the ball. England are good there is no denying it, but we can test them more than we did today.”
— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) July 31, 2022
While England bossed possession in the opening quarter, the Canada defence worked well to shut down the most dangerous routes into the circle. As England attempted to break through the Canada defensive line, the combined efforts of the back line and midfield shut down, intercepted and cleared with a regularity that was frustrating for England. While the whole defence was digging deep, the composure of Karli Johansen (North Vancouver, B.C.), Melanie Scholz (Calgary, Alta.) and Sara Goodman (Duncan, B.C.) set the standard.
England upped the ante in the second quarter and the pressure on the Wolf Pack intensified. Hannah Martin, Eleanor Rayer and Flora Peel were all running at the defence trying to make things happen.
The breakthrough came from England’s third penalty corner. Anna Toman resorted to a no-nonsense slap hit, which evaded the otherwise excellent Rowan Harris (Ottawa, Ont.) in the Canada goal. In fact, at the half-time break, Harris had registered eight saves and can be credited with keeping her team within touching distance.
Photo Credit: Yan Huckendubler
A rare Canada attack led to a shot from Maddie Secco (Victoria, B.C.) just before the half-time break, but the shot flew wide and Maddie Hinch was not called upon to make a save.
Despite the lion’s share of possession and 13 attempts on goal, going into the half-time break, there was only one goal separating the teams and Canada knew they were still in with a shot at a point at the least.
A half-time announcement that England had won the European football final gave stirred the crowd further and the England team re-entered the pitch galvanised by an enthusiastic crowd.
As the match moved towards its final stages, Canada began to create their own chances. Some fabulous 3D skills from Natalie Sourisseau (Kelowna, B.C.0 showed that there was plenty of ambition among the Canada squad. However, England’s defence have some experienced heads within the ranks and the Canadian attacks came to nothing.
England came close to creating a second chance but an important interception by the hard-working Sara McManus (Tsawwassen, B.C.) removed that danger. With one last throw of the dice, head coach Rob Short removed Harris with just over one minute left to play. The team looked to find a way through the England ranks but, having worked hard to get a 1-0 lead, England were not letting go.
Photo Credit: Yan Huckendubler
“Rowan was good today, it’s a shame about the corner against as I know she would like that one back,” added Short about the stellar performance of the Canadian keeper. “She made some great saves. To win a big game, or have a chance in a game versus top teams, we need world class goalkeeping. Looking forward to seeing this in the coming matches from our keepers.”
With 20 shots in total, England will be disappointed to have only converted one chance, but Canada will take a strong defensive performance into their next match against Ghana on 2 August before their penultimate test in the Pool matches against India on 3 August.
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MEN’S EVENT PAGE
July 30: Canada v Wales (3:00 PT/6:00 ET)
August 1: Canada v Ghana (11:00 PT/14:00 ET)
August 3: Canada v India (6:00 PT/9:00 ET)
August 4: Canada v England (8:00 PT/11:00 ET)
WOMEN’S EVENT PAGE
July 29: Canada v Wales (4-0 Win)
July 31: Canada v England (1-0 Loss)
August 2: Canada v Ghana (3:00 PT/6:00 ET)
August 3: Canada v India (3:00 PT/6:00 ET)