Great Britain into semi finals after victory over Spain

Helen Richardson-Walsh celebrates scoring against Spain. Credit FRANK UIJLENBROEK

Great Britain 3 (3)
Georgie Twigg 8 (PC)
Helen Richardson-Walsh 13 (FG)
Lily Owsley 27 (FG)

Spain 1 (0)
Georgina Oliva 53 (FG)

Full match details can be found here.

A first half blitz from Great Britain booked their place in the semi finals of the Olympic Games after a convincing 3-1 win over Spain in Rio. Early goals from Georgie Twigg, Helen Richardson-Walsh and Lily Owsley ensured Danny Kerry’s side raced into a 3-0 lead before half time. Although Spain came back into the contest and struck back in the second half through Georgina Oliva; GB sailed through, setting up a semi-final with New Zealand this Wednesday.      

Great Britain came out of the blocks at a searing pace in the first quarter. Crista Cullen stung the palms of Maria Lopez in the Spain goal with an early penalty corner before Sophie Bray’s deflection flew just over the bar. Bray terrorized the Redsticks defence, showing her full range of 3D skills, setting up chances and winning penalty corners almost at will. With eight minutes on the clock, Danny Kerry’s side took the lead. A polished penalty corner move saw the Surbiton connection link up as Giselle Ansley’s precise pass was expertly diverted into the roof of the net by Georgie Twigg. Just before the break Great Britain made it 2-0. Bray once again was at the heart of the move, breaking free down the left before picking out Helen Richardson-Walsh for the simplest of finishes.

Danny Kerry’s team continued their dominance into the second quarter. Lily Owsley set up Shona McCallin but her shot flashed just wide of the far post. Ansley almost added to the tally but somehow Lopez got a touch on her penalty corner to turn it wide. Great Britain were threatening to run away with the game. Laura Unsworth went close from a broken down penalty corner but it wasn’t long before Danny Kerry’s side notched their third. Almost a carbon copy of their second goal, Great Britain broke along the baseline, this time via Alex Danson who set up Owsley to slot home.

After the interval Sam Quek, winning her 50th Great Britain cap drew a good save out of Lopez as GB hunted another goal to kill the game off. Spain tiptoed their way back into the match and Maddie Hinch, making her 100th international appearance had to be alert to block from Begonia Garcia at close range. The Redsticks soon won their first penalty corner but Owsley did her defensive duties and blocked Lola Riera’s shot. Adrian Lock’s team  were unlucky not to find a goal when Berta Bonastre’s deflection thudded against the post but their lack of good fortune ensured GB’s commanding lead remained intact at the end of the third quarter.    

At the start of the fourth period Unsworth had the crowd on their feet with some outstanding defensive work, swiftly followed by a skilful break out of defence but despite GB being in a strong position the final quarter produced some nervy moments. With seven minutes remaining the Spanish got themselves on the board thanks to a lovely individual goal from Oliva. Spain threatened with a couple of late penalty corners but Great Britain’s defence held firm and their place in the semi-final was confirmed on full time.

Great Britain’s next match is the semi final on 17 August, live on BBC Sport against New Zealand. Time to be confirmed

Kate Richardson-Walsh, Great Britain captain:

“It was a dominant performance. We let it slip a couple of times in the second half, particularly when we went down to ten which made it difficult. Spain are a great side who have ability all over the field but we did well even with ten. Overall we were very dominant.”

“I feel the pressure more because I’m older. When you wait all day for an evening game it makes the expectation build. You just want to get out there. We started brilliantly in the first five minutes we really went at them. We created chances and had a corner and that really settled us down.”

“Our form reminds me of the Olympic qualifiers in Valencia. We built momentum game to game and we went unbeaten at that tournament. It feels the same as that. Each game we’re taking a little more and each game we’re showing a little more of what we can do. It bodes well for the semi final that each game we’re showing another facet of ourselves which sets us up well.”

“We don’t expect to win. We believe. We go back to square one for the next game. We believe we can win but we must do our jobs. We have to execute the tactics laid out by the coaches but we believe in what we’re doing.”

“We can’t go into the New Zealand game thinking emotionally. We must play it as it comes. We can’t think of what’s gone or what might be; you have to concentrate on what you’re doing. I’m just thinking about the next game. We believe we can get a medal but it’s off in the distance and we are focused on the semi final.”