Basking in the bright sunshine at Tallaght Stadium yesterday evening crowds of 3,172 took to the stands to see the Women’s World Cup Qualifier of Ireland v Norway. Ireland were unfortunate to suffer a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Norwegians with Lisa-Marie Utland securing two goals for her country.
Ireland now sit third on the table, two points behind Norway, having played a game more. For a realistic chance of sneaking into the play-offs, a win is a must when the team travels to Norway next Tuesday for the return fixture.
It was a difficult afternoon for the Irish Women’s National football team as Norway were dominant from start to finish. From kick-off, the Norwegian side, anchored by their two classy centre backs, Mjelde and Thorisdottir, controlled the game and showed why they are top seeds in the group.
What will disappoint the Irish most is the manner in which they conceded both goals. Despite Norway dominating possession, they rarely created anything from open play that troubled Hourihan in goal. Each attempt was stopped with ease and Hourihan was certainly one of the stand out players in the game.
After a good ball in from Guro Reiten’s corner, Lisa-Marie Utland rose highest in the six-yard box to head the ball past Hourihan and give Norway the lead after 21 minutes.
Ireland were dealt another blow when Louise Quinn was forced off due to injury, a collision which resulted in a broken nose. Despite Norway exerting their dominance, the Irish team showed brilliant character and determination to stay in the game.
Footage of First Half:
After the break, it was Ireland who had the best chance. A lightening counter-attack saw Leanne Kiernan race passed Wold and the Norwegian defence leaving her take a clear shot on goal. Unfortunately, the ball seemed to get stuck under her feet and the shot was tame and easy for Hielmseth to stop in the Norwegian goal.
Soon after, Norway doubled their lead with another goal from a set-piece. This time a free-kick floated in, wasn’t handled correctly by the Irish and resulted in the ball falling to the feet of Utland who seized her second goal of the game and fourth of the tournament.
Denise O’Sullivan was honored with player of the match and she was a true star of the Irish team. She was on form, always at the centre of the action and stood out as a talented player. She truly deserved the recognition and we hope her form continues into the next match against Norway.
Footage of Second Half:
The second half should give the Irish more confidence as they enjoyed more possession and put increased pressure on the Norweigen side. If they can cut out those defensive mistakes from set-pieces, they have a chance of going to Stavanger on Tuesday and taking a victory against the odds.
Following the match it was great to see the team interact with their fans, seeming humbled and appreciative of the support. It was refreshing to see international athletes take the time to connect and chat with supporters, undoubtedly inspiring the next generation of Irish footballers.
The next qualifier will be shown live on RTÉ2 and will also be available on RTÉ Player on Tuesday 12th June, 5pm.
Ireland: M Hourihan; S Perry-Campbell, L Quinn (C O’Riordan 36), D Caldwell, A O’Gorman; N Fahey (A Barrett 70), T Toland; K Duggan, D O’Sullivan, K McCabe (capt); L Kiernan.
Norway: I Hjelmseth; I Wold, M Mjelde (capt), M Thorisdottir, S Skinnes Hansen; C Graham Hansen (V Boe Risa 70), F Maanum, I Syrstad Engen, G Reiten; L-M Utland (E Thorsnes 76), I Herlovsen (S Jensen 89).
REF: K Monzul (Ukraine)