Wales 2 v 2 Northern Ireland (Euro 2021 Qualifying – Group C)
Wales continued their Euro 2021 qualifying campaign against Northern Ireland at Rodney Parade and Jayne Ludlow’s team arrived in Newport full of confidence on the back of a 6-0 victory against the Faroe Islands last week in the first group game.
Northern Ireland started the stronger of the two sides and had the first real effort on goal after just two minutes, when two welsh defenders both went for the same ball which left Lauren Wade running clear on goal. The left-winger broke into the Wales area before her angled shot from six yards was saved by Laura O’ Sullivan.
On seven minutes, Northern Ireland should have taken the lead when a free-kick on the edge of the Wales box was crossed to the edge of the six yard box, were left-back Gemma Evans managed to clear the ball just before Ireland’s Julie Nelson had the chance to give the visitors the lead.
Northern Ireland took the lead on eleven minutes, when a short corner was then played into the area before being headed clear by Hughes. The ball was headed back into the area were Simone Magill sent a backward header past O’Sullivan into the goal to make it 1-0.
Wales started to get a foot hold in the game after fifteen minutes with an excellent run down the left-wing by Kayleigh Green, her pass found Natasha Harding on the left hand corner of the area, but her shot curled over Emma Higgins crossbar.
On twenty minutes, an excellent move by Northern Ireland found striker Megan Bell about thirty yards from goal and the Irish international hit a right footed shot that tested Laura O’Sullivan who at full stretch took two attempts to save the ball that was arrowing for the top left corner of the goal.
Wales drew level on twenty-two minutes, following an excellent cross from the left wing by Hayley Ladd, her pass found Kayleigh Green at the back post, she then controlled the ball before pulling it back for Angharad James who’s shot took a deflection off Emma Jones to beat the Higgins in the Ireland goal to make it 1-1.
The home side then took control of the game and for the next fifteen minutes had most of the ball, creating some half chances and winning a number of corners and free-kicks in good positions. Angharad James who later won the Man of the Match award was dictating all of the play with some excellent tackling and passing in midfield.
Northern Ireland came back into the game in the final five minutes of the half and could have taken the lead again in the last minute, when Simone Magill turned the welsh defence and hit a shot from outside the area which O’Sullivan in the Wales gaol did well to tip around the post for a corner. Making the half-time score 1-1.
Wales had a much better start to the second-half and continued to create some chances, however it was Northern Ireland that went close to taking the lead on fifty-three minutes. A cross from the left-wing found Vance free at the edge of the six yard box, but her shot on the half-volley went well over O’Sullivan’s crossbar.
Just five minutes later, following a poor goal kick from Emma Higgins the Wales midfield collected the ball in the centre circle, before passing the ball to Kayleigh Green who ran at the Northern Ireland defence before shooting from twenty-five yards. Her effort went just wide of Emma Higgins goal when Harding was better placed to score for Wales.
The home side again started to increase the pressure on the visitors goal and on sixty-four minutes a quickly taken throw-in found Natasha Harding free inside the Northern Ireland penalty area, but her shot from a tight angle was well blocked by defender Julie Nelson.
As Northern Ireland starting to look tired Wales took the lead on sixty-nine minutes, when a quick throw-in found Rhiannon Roberts on the right-wing, she crossed to the back post where Kayleigh Green nipped in between two defenders to head the ball home from three yards and give Wales a 2-1 lead.
On seventy-six minutes, an excellent break by Rachel Furness down the right wing lead to a cross into the Wales penalty area which found Marissa Callaghan, the striker turned Sophie Ingles, but Callaghan’s first touch was poor and the ball was collected by Laura O’Sullivan in the Wales goal.
Northern Ireland should have drawn level on eight-one minutes, when Marissa Callaghan collected the ball in the middle of the field thirty five yards from goal, she took one look at the Wales goal before hitting an outstanding shot that beat Laura O’Sullivan before hitting the crossbar and bouncing down into the six yard box, where the ball hit Simone Magill before being collected safely by O’Sullivan in the Wales goal.
In the final minute of injury time, Wales gave away a silly free-kick on the right-hand which allowed Northern Ireland to send a long ball into the area. The cross was sent right under the Wales crossbar and Laura O’Sullivan tried to push it over, but the ball came back down off the crossbar for Ireland captain Ashley Hutton to head into an empty goal on her 100th appearance to make the full-time score 2-2.
Speaking after the match Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels said, “We didn’t salvage a point, we lost two points. Wales haven’t got one player from the Welsh domestic league and we had seven players from the Irish domestic league. I’m really proud of the girls as the Wales are a better team, but we were the better team on the night and we deserved a point at least. Our girls were outstanding and have drawn against a fantastic football team. Let’s build some momentum from that.”
Wales – O’Sullivan, Dykes, Evans, Ingle, Roberts, Hughes, E.Jones, James, K.Green, Ladd, Harding (Subs) Skinner, Clark, Ward, J.Green, Estcourt, Nolan, Woodham, Filbey, Wynne, C.Jones, Powell
Northern Ireland – Higgins, Newborough, Holdaway, Hutton, Nelson, McFadden, Furness, Vance, Wade, Bell, Magill (Subs) Burns, Flaherty, White, Johnson, Montgomery, Callaghan, Holloway, McCarron, McKenna
Goals – (Wales) James (22) K.Green (69) (N. Ireland) Magill (9) Hutton (94)