UEFA Women’s Championship – Group Two Qualifier Result
Romania 0 – 2 Republic of Ireland
Stephanie Curtis 12, 14
The game was played in temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius but Noel King’s team dealt with the conditions well and dominated the hosts from early on.
This UEFA Championship qualifier kicked-of at 10.30 am local time to avoid the high temperatures which would follow in the afternoon, it took just 12 minutes before the Irish broke the deadlock, Olivia O’Toole controlled the ball just inside the Romanian half before she hooked a pin-point ball to Curtis at the edge of the box, Romanian keeper, Lenuta Pop was hesitant in coming for the ball and Curtis made no mistake as she coolly lobbed the ball over the on-rushing keeper and into the back of the net.
Curtis was causing severe problems for the Romanian defenders on the left wing and she was on hand to punish some slack defending two minutes later. Balbriggan’s Sonya Hughes battled for possession in midfield and played a sublime long ball to Curtis who beat the offside trap which left her with just the keeper to beat; she controlled well and struck a powerful shot into the top left hand corner.
Irish midfielder, Michele O’Brien was instrumental in most of the Irish attacking play as they enjoyed a long period of sustained pressure on the Romanian box. After 20 minutes, Raheny United striker, Olivia O’Toole was unlucky not to extend the lead as she mazed through three defenders in the box before her shot was scrambled away by Lenuta Pop in the Romanian goal from a corner. From the resulting corner, Niamh Fahey should have scored her first senior goal as she was given a free header which flashed past the right post.
For the final ten minutes before half-time, it was Romania who pushed forward in search of a vital goal to drag them back into the game, the centre-back pairing of Niamh Fahey and Alisha Moran snubbed out any attacks and forced the Romanians to long wayward shots which never worried Byrne in the Irish goal.
Just after the break, Olivia O’Toole caused mayhem in the Romanian penalty area, she chased down a long ball which should have been a comfortable clearance for the defence but a mix-up with two defenders allowed the striker to steal the ball and her effort came off the post and out of play much to the relief of the keeper.
After 52 minutes, Romania started pushing forward leaving just the keeper in their own half for large periods, Romanian striker; Laura Roxana burst through the Irish midfield and unleashed a swerving shot which just went to the right of Byrne’s goal. Romania’s desperation to get back into the game left them vulnerable at the back and the Irish always looked dangerous on the counterattack, O’Toole took two defenders out of the game with a cutting through ball to Curtis who once again beat the offside trap with just the keeper left to beat. The keeper stood tall and made an extraordinary save from Curtis’s powerful shot to deny the Bristol Academy star her hat-trick.
Romania came close to getting one back after 77 minutes when Sarghe swerved past a number of tackles in the Irish box before Sharon Boyle made a last ditch tackle in the six yard box. Romania won a succession of corners in the final five minutes but were snuffed out by the tireless Irish defence.
Irish manager, Noel King was delighted with his sides performance in Mogosoaia this morning, “We always knew this was a key fixture for our campaign but to get a start like that after only 14 minutes is fantastic, the girls here today are a credit to their clubs and country, conditions were incredibly difficult and to perform like they did today was impressive,” said King.
“I could single out every player for their performance, the defence was outstanding and kept the pressure off our goal, we always looked dangerous on the break as they committed more players to attack, the fitness levels of all the players was a huge bonus for us,” he added.
“For me, this was the key game in the group that would go a long way to decide our final placing; today’s weather was definitely a factor for both teams. The decision to change the kick-off time to 10.30 am was necessary as I don’t think either team could have coped with this heat wave later in the day.”
Irish goal scorer, Stephanie Curtis was understandably thrilled with today’s result, “We came to Bucharest with just one ambition, to get the three points and that for me is job done. It was definitely a great performance today but I was very impressed that with just 20 minutes to go, when people are getting tired, our defence stood firm and did not allow Romania any room, I think that shows the great team spirit that we have in the camp.”
“It’s always nice to score for your country and I think it’s good to take the pressure of the strikers from time to time, especially Olivia (O’Toole) who has scored so many times for us. Looking at the group table, this win sets us up nicely, after three games we have six points and we will be quietly confident of pulling off an upset in finishing in 2nd place for a play-off spot.”
The result gives Ireland six points from three games played in their UEFA Women’s Championship Group Two campaign. Ireland defeated Hungary 2-1 in their opening fixture in April but suffered a set-back in May when Italy came to Dublin and beat the Irish 2-1.
However, with another home qualifer to come next on October 10th against Romania, King’s team have given their prospects of reaching their first-ever Major finals a boost.
The 30 nations involved in the qualifying series are vying for the eleven available slots at the Finals alongside hosts Finland. Although only the winner of each of the six groups is guaranteed to qualify, the new format of the competition will allow teams that finish second and third in the group a chance to still make the showpiece.
The six runners-up and four third-placed sides with the best records against the nations finishing first, second and fourth in their groups will be drawn into five two-legged play-offs for the remaining spots in the summer Finals.
Republic of Ireland:
Emma Byrne - Arsenal
Niamh Fahey - Salthill Devon
Alisha Moran - NY Athletic
Sharon Boyle - Raheny United
Marie Curtin - Lifford
Michelle O’Brien - Long Island Lady Riders
Ciara Grant - Arsenal
Sonya Hughes - Balbriggan FC
Stephanie Curtis - Bristol Academy
Aine O’Gorman - Stella Maris
Olivia O Toole - Raheny United
Noelle Murray - Raheny United
Sarah Peters - Seatlle Sanuders
Laura Hislop – Newbridge on for O’Toole, 62 Mins
Emma Griffin - Benfica
Meabh De Burca - Salthill Devon
Yvonne Tracy - Arsenal
Grace Murray - Dundalk City Womens