Katie Long’s fine second-half equaliser gave England a draw in the first test against Spain at the weekend.The Leicester player’s strike equalised Raquel Huertas’ opener at the Highfields Sports Club in Nottingham and earned praise from England coach Danny Kerry.
He said: “I was delighted Katie Long took her chance so well, especially for a player with so few caps.”
There was little to choose between the teams in the opening spell with both enjoying periods of possession in the East Midlands sunshine. The first real opportunity of the match fell to England but Chloe Strong’s penalty corner flew past the left hand post.
On 17 minutes captain Kate Walsh’s mistake saw her robbed by Montse Cruz, who entered the circle with just Duggan to beat. In trying to make amends for her mistake Walsh took the stick of the Spanish number eight while she lined up to shoot and the umpire immediately pointed to the penalty spot. But Becky Duggan came to the rescue with a comfortable save from Raquel Huertas’ flick to keep the score at 0-0.
Further goal scoring opportunities were few and far between as the half wore on. Spain’s only first half penalty corner was miss-controlled at the top of the circle allowing Walsh to charge down before a shot was released. At the other end Helen Richardson, earning her 100th England cap, was crowded out as she attempted to shoot on the reverse.
The second half was a livelier affair with Spain looking more threatening. The team ranked seventh in the world took the lead just four minutes into the half. Good work down the right culminated in a cross that reached Huertas at the back of the circle and with time to pick her spot she fired the ball low into the corner of the net.
England then had to survive two penalty corners with Duggan saving the first with her left glove and defenders blocking out the second.
The equaliser came in the 45th minute after good work by Alex Danson down the right channel allowed Ellis to feed Katie Long, who struck a rasping shot beyond Maria Jesus Rosa into the far netting. It was superb strike from a young player, and her second goal in just five games for England.
The goal gave England renewed energy and just two minutes later Danson found herself with just Jesus Rosa to beat from close range, but the world’s best goalkeeper pulled off a good block to keep the scores level.
With the pressure mounting on the Spanish defence they conceded two more penalty corners but Walsh’s flick was comfortably saved before the goalkeeper made another good block from Chloe Rogers.
A yellow card to Montse Cruz with six minutes remaining saw Spain drop to a half court defence and the game finished 1-1.
Danny Kerry saw room for improvement: “Our turnovers at the back gave Spain too many opportunities and we failed to really capitalise on our counter attacks.”
England will have the opportunity to win the series in the second test.
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