England will play the USA in the quarter-finals of the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League after beating China in their final group game to finish third in Pool B.
Captain Alex Danson led from the front superbly and opened the scoring with her 106th international strike, meaning she becomes England and GB’s combined outright second highest scorer of all time behind Marjorie Pollard.
She then played pivotal roles in goals for Sophie Bray, Hannah Martin and Sarah Haycroft as England cruised to their first victory of the tournament despite a third quarter effort from Zhong Mengling.
The result means England will face the Americans – who came second in Pool A – on Thursday, a game Danson is already looking forward to after the improved performance in this match.
“I am delighted with that team performance today,” the forward said. “We were fantastic in defence and we had some beautiful connections between the defence, midfield and the forward line. To come out today and have a really good performance from back to front is something we are really happy with.
“We are very much looking forward to the next one against the USA. They are a very competitive team and we have played each other a couple of times already this year so it promises to be a great game.”
After spending much of their previous game against Argentina defending, England came out full of attacking intent against the world number eight outfit, with Lily Owsley in particular looking threatening.
The University of Birmingham midfielder brought the game to life in the 12th minute with a stunning run from her own half into China’s circle before Danson tucked the ball between the ‘keeper’s legs to open the scoring.
The lead was doubled at the end of the quarter as Bray smashed a shot past Li after being unselfishly set up by Martin at the end of a move which started with a raking pass down the left of the pitch by Danson.
Danny Kerry’s team continued to press in the second quarter and were unlucky not to score again as Bray had a shot well saved in the 25th minute Danson thumped a stinging reverse stick shot against the post moments later.
Shona McCallin then put in a timely tackle to thwart a Chinese attack in the 39th minute before England broke down the other end to score their third, Danson forcing her way into the circle and picking out Martin who tucked the ball away for her fifth international goal.
Owsley came close to bagging a goal herself but her shot at the end of another storming run was saved by Li before China struck back in the final minute of the third quarter as Zhong scored her country’s first goal of the tournament after a good initial save by Maddie Hinch.
England continued to dominate in the final quarter though as Martin and Owsley went close before Haycroft slotted home after more good work by Danson inside the Chinese circle.
England will now play the USA at 5am on Thursday 24 November in a game that will be shown on BT Sport.
Starting XI: Hinch, Unsworth, Martin, Paige, Danson, Ansley, Bray, Pearne-Webb, McCallin, Owsley, Balsdon
Subs (Used): Haycroft, Toman, Petty, Sanders, Rayer, Defroand, Tennant