Republic of Ireland 1-0 Portugal
Laura Hislop, 29mins
The Republic of Ireland made a magnificant start to the Algarve Cup tournament with an exciting win over the host nation, Portugal, on Thursday.
Left-winger Laura Hislop was Ireland's goal-scoring hero; a beautiful strike after 29 minutes enough to edge a narrow win in a highly competitive game. Ireland's goal was the highlight of an exciting opening half performance, one that gave Ireland the advantage they needed to withstand Portugal's spirited come-back in the second half.
In the circumstances Ireland's manager Noel King described the game as a perfect work-out as Ireland prepare for an even more important assignment at the end of the month, against Switzerland in a World Cup qualifying tie.
He said: "I am very proud of the way the girls played... they were bright and entertaining in the first half when they were well on top and then they had to show their fighting qualities as Portugal came at them in the second half.
"It was a match from which we can learn a lot, particularly from the manner in which we denied them an equalising goal. We were under pressure and had a dodgy ten minute period midway through the second half, but the girls rode the storm well and dealt particularly well with the sustained pressure of the last ten minutes."
The goal came from one of several first-half scoring opportunities created by Ireland. They showed a lot of initiative and good technique as they dictated the trend of the game but they wasted all but one of their scoring chances.
The goal was a huge reward, however, for it was created cleverly and finished with aplomb by Hislop. The scoring move was initiated by Marie Curtin who played a ball over the top of the Portugese defence to release Elaine O'Connor on the right wing.
She made ground before whipping the ball across the penalty area and when Denise Thomas dummied the ball to let it run through, Hislop closed from the left wing to swerve it, left footed, past the goalkeeper and into the net off the inside of the far upright.
"It was a really good bit of football that produced the goal" said King, "and a deserved reward for an exciting Irish performance. The youngsters on the pitch learned a lot and the win has set us up nicely for our next match on Saturday."
Ireland will play Mexico on Saturday and a win here would see them advance to the knock-out stages. They have the added incentive of knowing that if they advance that far they will be seen on TV for the matches will be screened live by Eurosport from that stage onwards.
The Irish team was:
Emma Byrne, Arsenal; Marie Curtin (Hofstra University), Alisha Moran (Harvard University), Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal); Dolores Deasley (Bristol Academy), Sonya Hughes (New Hampshire Phantoms/Franklin Pierce), Ciara Grant (Arsenal), Elaine O'Connor (Long Island Lady Riders), Michele O'Brien (Long Island Lady Riders), Denise Thomas (Boston Renegades), Laura Hislop (New Hampshire Phantoms/Franklin Pierce).
Sub: Olivia O'Toole (Shamrock Rovers) for Thomas 75 mins.