Wales women get their EuroHockey Qualifiers off to a superb start defeating Slovakia 9-0 in Durham.
Ranked 39 places above Slovakia in the FIH world rankings, Welsh fans were expecting a high-scoring result, and they weren't disappointed.
Getting the goals underway in the first quarter, Eloise Laity slapped the ball into the back of the net to claim Wales’ first.
The second quickly followed. A quality pass fired into the circle by Hannah Cozens was expertly directed into goal by Izzy Webb.
Three minutes later, Xenna Hughes found the third, firing the ball from the edge of the circle into the back of the net off one of Wales’ countless penalty corners.
Rounding off a solid first 15 minutes for Wales, Webb claimed her second of the game, helping the ball over the line from a great Maddie Goodman cross.
The second quarter continued in a similar fashion, with Jo Westwood getting the team's fifth, again via a penalty corner. Slovakian goalkeeper Daniela Sutovska stood no chance as Westwood hit the ball with real intent and fired it into the goal.
The goals slowed down a bit for the remainder of the first half and the start of the second, despite Wales’ constant waves of attack. Slovakia dug in deep with some stubborn defending and denied them converting their chances.
The goalless middle 20 minutes were finally broken with a beautiful goal straight into the top corner from Goodman in her senior international debut for Wales.
A change of goalkeeper for Slovakia brought some terrific saves as Natalia Liskova saw off three Welsh penalty corners towards the end of the third quarter.
With Slovakia a player down at the start of the last 15 minutes, Hughes found Wales’ seventh goal and her second of the game with a low strike from a penalty corner.
Soon after, captain Leah Wilkinson made it eight, finishing off a nice move between herself and Sarah Jones with a dive to guide the ball over the line.
Izzie Howell claimed their ninth and final goal, once again resulting from a penalty corner. After the initial flick in from Livvy Hoskins was deflected off the body of a Slovakian defender, Howell was in the right position to play the advantage and comfortably knocked the ball into the goal.
Wales looked hungry in the closing stages to find one more with two penalty corners, but the double digits just alluded them and they settled for a very comfortable 9-0 win.
Speaking after the game, co-captains Wilkinson, Beth Bingham and Sian French said “It was a really controlled performance from the team against a relatively unknown competition.”
“We did well to stay patient and stick to our processes to get outcomes in the D and it was great to have a number of different goal scorers on the goal sheet.”
“It’s a solid start to the tournament for us and we’re looking forward to the next two games."
Wales women have a rest day tomorrow and are back on Saturday 27th for their biggest match of the tournament against England at 13:00.