Ireland fall short in European qualifier against Spain

Sue Ronan's side were defeat 3-0 by the group leaders

Emma Byrne

Ireland goalkeeper Emma Byrne ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Despite a fantastic first half performance, Republic of Ireland WNT were defeated 3-0 this evening as Spain made it 18 points from 18 in Group 2.

A controversial penalty decision in just the 2nd minute handed Spain the opportunity of a dream start. Captain Veronica Boquete stepped up to drill the ball to Emma Byrne’s left only for the Ireland keeper to make a stunning save.

The hosts continued to command possesion but failed to create another clear cut chance in the first half hour. 39 minutes in, a dangerous cross from the left wing saw Celia Jimenez head towards goal only for Niamh Fahey to stop the goalbound header.

Alexis Putellas came closest to breaking the deadlock when she beat the offside trap in the 41st minute and with a delicate chip over the advancing Emma Byrne, her shot went narrowly past the far post.

Ireland came more and more into the game and following a cynical foul on Denise O’Sullivan, Julie-Ann Russell’s free kick was nodded down in the box by Louise Quinn and Stephanie Roche was mere centimetres away from giving Ireland the lead.

Such was Ireland’s first half performance, the Spaniards made two changes at the break. Playing into the wind in the second half, Ireland came out fighting. A marauding run from Katie McCabe saw the winger win a free-kick on the edge of the Spain area. Stephanie Roche steped up to take the resulting free kick only for Dolores Gallardo in the Spanish goal to save.

Disaster struck in the 59th minute as a quick one-two saw Alexia Putellas get to the end line and cross for Veronica Bouquet to fire home. Ireland faced an uphill battle from there and just six minutes later Spain added a second. Leila Ouahabi found space on the left flank to whip an inviting ball to the back post where Veronica Boquete powered a header into the far corner to score her second of the game.

Sue Ronan made immediate changes with Jessica Gleeson and Ruesha Littlejohn coming on for Niamh Fahey and Julie-Ann Russell as Ireland pushed to get back in the game. Spain showed just why they are top of the group with maximum points as they continued to look dangerous in the final third. Louise Quinn came to Ireland’s rescue in the 80th with a vital block from substitute Jennifer Hermoso’s shot.

Hermoso did eventually find the net in the 86th minute. Louise Quinn cleared a cross from Celia Jimenez but Hermoso buried the loose ball past Emma Byrne from 18 yards to give Spain a third and sealed the 3-0 win.

Next up for the Girls in Green is a trip to Finland in June before hosting Montenegro four days later with qualification for the finals still firmly in Ireland’s hands.

Spain WNT: Dolores Gallardo (GK), Celia Jimenez, Leila Ouahabi, Andrea Pereira, Ruth Garcia, Virginia Torrecilla, Marta Torrejon, Veronica Boquete, Alexia Putellas, Erika Vasquez, Amanda Sampedro.

Substitutions: Vicky Losada for Ruth García, Marta Corredera for Erika Vázquez (both HT), Jennifer Hermoso for Veronica Boquete (75 minutes).

Republic of Ireland WNT: Emma Byrne (c), Louise Quinn, Niamh Fahey, Karen Duggan, Diane Caldwell, Aine O’Gorman, Denise O’Sullivan, Julie-Ann Russell, Stephanie Roche, Katie McCabe, Meabh De Burca

Substitutions:

Ruesha Littlejohn for Julie Russell, 
Jessica Gleeson for Niamh Fahey (both 69 minutes), Fiona O’Sullivan for Katie McCabe (78 mins)