England 0 (0)
New Zealand 0 (0)
New Zealand win the shootout 2-1
England’s women will fight for Gold Coast 2018 bronze after agonisingly losing to New Zealand on penalties at the end of a gripping match.
Stacey Michelsen was the player to break English hearts as she scored the decisive final penalty following the goalless game, calmly lifting the ball over Maddie Hinch to send her team into the final.
England had taken the initial lead in the shootout through Hannah Martin but Samantha Harrison equalised shortly after before Grace O’Hanlon – who only came off the bench for the shootout – made two great saves to keep out Anna Toman and Hollie Pearne-Webb.
Michelsen then proved to be the hero of the day, although England should be incredibly proud of themselves after an impressive performance on Alex Danson’s 300th international appearance.
Having barely been tested against Malaysia, Maddie Hinch was required to paw away Anita McLaren’s second minute effort after a great break by Michelsen before she kicked away a diving reverse effort by Harrison.
England soon found their stride though, winning three penalty corners in the eighth minute with Samantha Charlton brilliantly charging down two while the other from Hollie Pearne-Webb drew a smart save from Sally Rutherford.
Danny Kerry’s side had plenty of success down the right, with Alex Danson seeing a diving effort saved, Susannah Townsend having the ball nicked away from her as she wound up for a shot and a sliding Sophie Bray nudge smothered by Rutherford.
The Black Sticks also had chances of their own through Tarryn Davey and Kesley Smith – the latter forcing another good stop from Hinch – but neither side could break the deadlock before half-time.
The momentum continued to ebb and flow in the third quarter but there was no further goalmouth action until England won a 43rd minute corner, with Brooke Neal deflecting Unsworth’s effort agonisingly wide of the post.
New Zealand soon retaliated, winning their first corner 20 seconds into the final quarter, but Ansley positioned herself superbly on the line to block McLaren’s flick and keep the scores level.
Sarah Haycroft then thought she had a goal on her birthday, only to find the whistle had already been blown, while Hinch produced another good block to deny Michelsen before showing why she is regarded as the world’s best with an unbelievable save to keep out a rasping Olivia Merry effort on the stroke of full-time.
And despite Hinch keeping out three penalties it just wasn’t to be as Michelsen defied all the pressure on her shoulders to produce an inch-perfect effort to win the tie.
England will now fight for the bronze medal at 01:30 BST on Saturday 14 April.
England Starting XI: Hinch (GK), Ansley, Lane, Toman, Pearne-Webb, Unsworth, Haycroft, Townsend, Bray, Danson (C), Watton
Subs: Tennant (GK), Petty, Balsdon, Defroand, Hunter, Martin, Rayer