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England women win Euro semi-final place with 3-1 defeat of Ireland

[img_assist|nid=2991|title=England defeat Ireland 3-1 in Germany|desc=Ashleigh Ball of England (right) challenges Ireland’s Michelle Harvey (c) Diamurid Greene/Sportsfile|link=node|align=right|width=250|height=246]England have won their pool in the EuroHockey Nations Championship at Moenchengladbach, notching their third win in a row to top pool B.

The defending bronze medallists were, however, forced to come from behind after conceding a 32nd minute goal, scored by Niamah Small. That came after a string of penalty corner misses and other mistakes and poor decisions in a sluggish first-half performance.

The train was back on the rails soon after half time when a Crista Cullen drive into the circle was deflected in by Hannah Macleod (40mins), scoring in her 50th game. Helen Richardson then put England ahead with a skilful dribble down the baseline to the right post, setting up Alex Danson for a shot in front. Richardson then picked up the rebound from Alex Speers’ pads to score in the 42nd minute.

The third came from Anne Panter (54mins) when she deflected home a back-to-the-injector penalty corner for a neat goal that perhaps the Irish defence could have covered better.

Coach Danny Kerry said the game was one of “frustration”. And he praised Helen Richardson for her second-half perfomance. “Someone needed to engage their brain,” he said.

England will now play the runner up in Pool A at 6.30pm (5.30pm UK) on Thursday for a place in the final. Their opponent will probably be the Netherlands who lost unexpectedly to Spain on Sunday. Although the final placings in pool A will be decided by games later today.

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