EuroHockey: England 4 Belarus 3
- Credit: Frank Uijlenbroek
England’s women progressed to the semi-finals of the EuroHockey Championships with a narrow victory over an extremely plucky Belarus side.
Lily Owsley opened the scoring before Izzy Petter got her first England goal, but Belarus fought back to draw level at 2-2.
Laura Unsworth extended England's lead but again Belarus struck back, only for Hannah Martin to score the winner on 56 minutes.
Having picked up a win over Ireland and a draw with Germany in their previous games, England had done the bulk of their work before today's match and battled to another three points in Antwerp.
But with either Netherlands, Spain or hosts Belgium awaiting on Friday, they will be looking to raise their game as they face higher-ranked opponents in the knockout phase.
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Captain Hollie Pearne-Webb said: "They were much better today than they had been in the previous games so we'll give them credit for that. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game, we knew they were going to be very different opposition compared to those we've played in the past and we knew it would be a fight - but we made it a lot more difficult for ourselves.
"Our basics weren't on it. We'd put in a bobbly pass or put it where we didn't want it and they were really pushed out on us, which made it difficult.
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"We need to look at that, our tempo and try and insert our game on an opposition when it's a very different style of play.
"The positive was that we got the win, got through to the semis. Stage one of the tournament is now done for us and we will review that game going into the semi-final.
"Now we'll look back to the first half of the Germany game and want to replicate something like that. As a team we know we've got a good performance and a step-up in us.
"Whoever we draw in the semi-finals we know it's going to be a really, really tough game. It's really important we stick to our game plan, stay really calm and know we're always in it. We're really looking forward to the semi-finals now."
Having not scored in their first two metches, Belarus should have taken the lead, with Krestsina Papkova hitting the post after excellent work from Sviatlana Bahushevich.
Without being totally fluid, England then began to settle and Owsley turned home the loose ball from their first penalty corner of the game.
Then right at the end of the quarter 19-year-old Petter got her very first England goal with a neat finish from Martin's pass.
Belarus were maintaining a foothold in the game, and Karyna Syddykava scored her nation's first goal in the tournament with a very well-struck penalty corner down to Maddie Hinch's left.
To Belarus' great credit, they took advantage of significant space in England's final third and drew level thanks to a well-hit effort from captain Nastassia Syrayezhka.
But the lead did not last long, Unsworth turning home a rebound from a corner just a minute after the equaliser, and Martin hit the outside of the post with a deflection from an Ansley corner.
Papkova again came close to scoring with a neat touch but was denied by Hinch, while Owsley drove forwards well and found Petter but the forward's effort was off target.
In the final quarter Belarus continued to pose a threat and scored an excellent equaliser, breaking away from an England corner with Natalia Shtsin producing a very good diving finish.
England were shocked into life and Martin scored neatly from a Sarah Evans pass to restore England's lead with four minutes remaining.
With higher-ranked opponents up next in the semi-final, England will be looking for an improved performance as the tournament becomes even more competitive.
England: Hinch, Unsworth, Toman, Ansley, Pearne-Webb (C), McCallin, Evans, Rayer, Owsley, Martin, Howard. Subs: Defroand, Petty, Townsend, Hunter, Balsdon, Petter. Unused: Tennant.