Hungary 0-2 Republic of Ireland
Noel King's Republic of Ireland women's side battled a strong Hungary team to take all three points in the UEFA Championship qualifier in Miskolc, Hungary this afternoon. Michele O' Brien opened the scoring after 18 seconds while Stefanie Curtis scored with a sublime effort early in the second half. Arsenal's Emma Byrne produced a extraordinary save from the penalty spot to deny the home side a goal late on.
The Irish attacked straight from kick-off and Irish captain, Ciara Grant played a ball forward to Michele O' Brien who out-muscled the two central defenders at the edge of the box and she superbly lobbed the ball over Szvoipa in the Hungarian goal to give the Irish the lead after only 18 seconds.
The Irish almost extended their lead in the 14th minute when left back, Sharon Boyle floated a freekick into the box, the ball was cleared as far as Galway's Niamh Fahey who headed narrowly over from ten yards out.
Hungary started dominating proceedings mid-way through the first half as they searched for the equaliser. With 24 minutes into the game, Hungary missed a real chance to equalise. Hungarian, centre forward, Anett Nagy made a perfectly time run into the box and she chased onto a through-ball from the midfield, with just Emma Byrne to beat in the Irish goal, she stumbled on the surface of the pitch as Byrne gathered the ball much to the relief of Noel King's side.
Hungary had a glorious opportunity to draw level after 55 minutes, Anita Padar ran on to a ball inside the Irish box. Irish defender, Sharon Boyle pressurised the attacker as her shot went just over Emma Byrne's goal.
Stefanie Curtis scored a tremendous goal after 63 minutes to double Ireland's lead. The Irish were awarded a free-kick from 25 yards out when O' Brien was tugged to the ground by her marker. In an orchestrated free-kick move, Marie Curtin shaped up to blast the freekick towards goal but the ball was tapped into space and the on-rushing Curtis blasted it past the keeper from 20 yards out.
Anett Nagy almost pulled one back for Hungary with ten minutes remaining, she made a mazy run through the Irish defence and just as she pulled the trigger, the central defensive pairing of Niamh Fahey and Yvonne Tracy closed her down and blocked the shot.
In the 83rd minute, Hungary were awarded a dubious penalty after one of the Irish defenders was adjudged to have handled the ball from a corner. Hungarian substitute, Katalin Fogl stepped up and her penalty was marvelously blocked by Byrne and the resulting rebound was blasted over the bar by Fogl.
The Republic of Ireland have now recorded four wins in the UEFA Championship, Group 2 qualification and they currently lie in joint first position with Italy who have played one game less than Noel King's side. The Irish will now face Sweden at home in June and in Sweden in October as the race for the EURO 2009 qualification hots up. 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, Marie Curtin, Sharon Boyle, Yvonne Tracy, Niamh Fahey, Sonya Hughes, Ciara Grant (C), Aine O' Gorman, Edel Malone, Michele O' Brien, Stefanie Curtis
Substitutes: Alisha Moran (on for O'Gorman, 89 mins), Olivia O' Toole (on for Boyle, 88 mins), Meabh de Burca (on for Grant, 87 mins), Seana Cooke, Lynn Bradley, Claire Scanlon
Goals at the start of either half from Michelle O'Brien and Stephanie Curtis earned the Republic of Ireland a 2-0 victory against Hungary in Miskolc, to move above Sweden and into second place in UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ qualifying Group 2.
Noel King's side were overwhelmed in their last outing in February but any early nerves were soon allayed when O'Brien opened the scoring after 18 seconds, outmuscling two defenders before deftly lobbing goalkeeper Melinda Szvorda. The Republic of Ireland had chances to extend their lead, but were increasingly forced on the back foot by a Hungary team growing in confidence and it took something special from Curtis after the hour to make the points safe. The striker rifled in an unstoppable shot after a well-rehearsed free-kick to keep Irish hopes alive and leave Hungary at the foot of the section.
O'Brien and Curtis may have taken the headlines, but the Irish were equally indebted the excellent Emma Byrne. The Arsenal LFC goalkeeper made a string of saves, most notably when the hosts were awarded a penalty for handball seven minutes from time. Katalin Fogl stepped up, but Byrne made a splendid save and the forward then fired the rebound over the crossbar. It was a wastefulness that typified Hungary's performance, as Anett Nagy and Anita Padár, in particular, squandered fine build-up work in front of goal. Their side will now look to avoid the wooden spoon while the Irish prepare for June's decisive meeting with Sweden.