2009 UEFA Women’s Championships play-off first leg
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Iceland
Stefanie Curtis struck in the 63rd minute to earn the Republic of Ireland senior Women’s a draw in the first leg of the 2009 UEFA Championships play-off at Richmond Park. Holmfridur Magnusdottir had given the visitors a first minute lead but the nations go into Thursday’s second leg deadlocked.
Ireland hardly had time to find their shape when they conceded after just 25 seconds.
Iceland’s Dora Maria Larusdottir was afforded space on the right side to deliver a low cross into the box and Holmfridur Magnusdottir smashed the ball home with a first-time shot from eight yards.
Stung by that early strike, the Irish gradually got a foothold on proceedings with the front trio of Aine O’Gorman, Michelle O’Brien and Stephanie Curtis beginning to show a threat.
Their first real opening came on 15 minutes when Mary Therese O’Donnell threaded a pass through to O’Brien in a central position and she worked the goalkeeper with a rasping shot from the edge of the area.
Ireland were then given a let-off midway through the half as Iceland should have doubled their lead. Slack marking allowed Rakel Honnudottir race free into the space down the right and she fired a half-volley past the far post with Irish goalkeeper Emma Byrne well beaten.
The Irish pressed for an equaliser early in the second half, O’Brien failing to get a proper connection three minutes in after Iceland goalkeeper Agustsdottir spilled a routine cross from the left into her path.
The Nordic side were being put on the back foot but remained dangerous on the counter-attack and Vidarsdottir could have given Ireland an even tougher task had her snap-shot from an acute angle on the hour crept inside the post instead of angling fractionally wide.
With that scare behind them, Ireland hit back almost immediately by drawing level on 63 minutes.
Substitute Olivia O’Toole, introduced on the hour, played a telling role by setting Stefanie Curtis (left) on her way with the pass and the Bristol Academy striker fired across goal and past the goalkeeper with the aid of a slight deflection off Arnadottir.
O’Toole was at the hub of the action as Ireland grew in confidence. Ireland’s record goal-scorer tried her luck with 15 minutes left from free-kick from 25 yards which Agustsdottir had to dive full-stretch to tip around the post.
Iceland’s away goal means Ireland will need to score in the second leg to go through into next year’s UEFA finals.
REP OF IRELAND (4-3-3): Emma Byrne (Arsenal); Alisha Moran (Fulham), Yvonne Treacy (Arsenal), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal), Meabh Da Burcha (Salthill Devon); Ciara Grant (Arsenal), Sonya Hughes (Dundalk), Mary Therese McDonnell (Boston Renegades); Aine O’Gorman (Stella Maris), Michele O’Brien (Jerseys Sky Blue), Stefanie Curtis (Bristol Academy).
Substitutes: Olivia O’Toole (Raheny United) for Hughes (60 mins), Jemma O’Connor (Birmingham Ladies) for Curtis (90 mins)
ICELAND (4-4-1-1): Agustsdottir; A. Arnadottir, Joonsdottir, G. Gunnarsdottir, O. Vidarsdottir; Gardarsdottir, ; SJ. Gunnarsdottir, Magnusdottir, Honnudottir; Larusdottir; M.Vidarsdottir.
Substitutes: Omarasdottir for Magnusdottir (73 mins), Gisladottir for Vidarsdottir (82 mins) E. Arnardottir for Honnudottir (89 mins)
REFEREE: Silvia Tea Spinelli (Italy).