Job done and one step closer to qualifying for a first ever major tournament. Ireland climb to the top of their 2021 European Championship Qualifying group, after a comprehensive 3-0 victory against Montenegro.
The Girls in Green knew they would need to earn six points from six against both Greece and Montenegro to stand any chance of qualifying for their first ever major tournament and they duly delivered.
A first-half goal from last week’s match-winner Diane Caldwell and two goals in the final ten minutes from Katie McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan secured the three points for Ireland.
After a very slow and nervy start from Ireland, the hosts almost took the lead from some clever counter-pressing and Irish lapses in defence. Ireland began the game with a new formation, playing three at-the-back. The unfamiliarity of the system seemed to cause them some issues as they found it difficult to deal with the Montenegro pressure.
However as things settled after the 12th minute, Ireland took control of the game and grabbed the opener from a set-piece which are proving crucial.
There was a sense of Deja-vu for the opening goal as it was an exact replica of the only goal scored against Greece last week.
A deep free-kick taken by captain Katie McCabe was headed back across the goal by Louise Quinn before Diane Caldwell showed incredible bravery to nod the ball home from close range. Quinn continues to cause trouble for opposition as her aerial ability is proving difficult to defend.
Despite the convincing 3-0 score line, Ireland will know there will be plenty to improve on. Whilst they remained in control of the game, they found it difficult to pass through the lines of the Montenegro banks of four and were at times wasteful in possession. It wasn’t until late on in the game where they were able to put it to bed.
Finding space proved to be difficult in the first half as Ireland struggled to come to terms with the narrow pitch and with Montenegro refusing to open up. With little space to work with and chances at a minimum, Ireland will know they will need to be more clinical against their next opponent Germany.
As half-time approached, Ireland nearly grabbed a second when Denise O’Sullivan’s volley clipped the inside of the post before falling into the grateful hands of the Montenegro goalkeeper, Cabarkapa. On the other side of half-time, Jarrett and Littlejohn went close with efforts but were both denied by fine blocks.
On the 65th minute, Montenegro’s Djukic received her marching orders as she was sent off for a clear second bookable offence. With the host’s down then down to ten players, Ireland exploited the space which they were left.
Katie McCabe eased the pressure on Ireland after scoring a brilliantly taken free-kick with seven minutes remaining of normal time. After the initial quick free-kick was called back by the referee, McCabe lined up a shot and placed a powerful strike into the far corner well out of Cabarkapa’ s reach.
With the game dead and buried, Denise O’Sullivan completed the scoring with a well worked goal. Rianna Jarrett cut the ball back for the energetic midfielder who had to sort her feet out before firing a deflected shot over the keeper and give Ireland a much needed three points.
Speaking after the game, Head Coach Vera Pauw said it was a case of “job done.”
“We just needed the three points. Job done, we’re happy with that.” said Pauw, speaking to RTE Sport.
“Credit to Montenegro, they fought all the way through. While we deserved the win, we should have played with more variety and more composure, because there were too many mistakes in the game.”