Republic of Ireland 2 Costa Rica 1
The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team completed their Istria Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over World Cup finalists Costa Rica this afternoon in Croatia.
Stephanie Roche fired Ireland into the lead after 21 minutes with a dipping shot from 25 metres and Megan Campbell added a second after 30 minutes when she powerfully headed home a Katie McCabe corner.
Skipper and goalkeeper Emma Byrne had to go off after 48 minutes when she was injured in a collision that resulted in a penalty for Costa Rica but her replacement Niamh Reid Burke brilliantly saved the spot-kick.
Costa Rica did pull a goal back on 53 minutes when Reid Burke was bundled into the net but Ireland held on for a well-deserved win.
Sue Ronan made several changes to the team which lost to Austria on Monday with Megan Campbell coming into the centre of defence and Diane Caldwell switching to right back in place of Aine O’Gorman. Stephanie Roche and Denise O’Sullivan joined Niamh Fahey in midfield replacing Ciara Grant and the suspended Ruesha Littlejohn.
An effort from Costa Rica striker Carolina Morales which flew over the bar after five minutes left Ireland in no doubt that the Central Americans had to be respected but once the Irish got a grip on the game they took control and went ahead after 21 minutes when a good build up ended with Julie Ann Russell feeding Diane Caldwell out right and her first time cross was controlled by Roche before she unleashed a dipping shot from 25metres which gave the keeper no chance.
Nine minutes later Ireland’s stranglehold on the game increased when Katie McCabe’s corner was powerfully headed home by Campbell. The margin could have been extended on the stroke of half-time when Carol Breen got a glancing header on a long throw by Campbell as it flew across the face of goal, but it came off the bottom of the back post before going wide.
Aine O’Gorman and Fiona O’Sullivan were introduced for Russell and Breen respectively at the start of the second half before a crazy five minute spell which saw the Bosnian referee decide that Emma Byrne had fouled a Costa Rican attacker in an incident in which the Irish keeper lost a tooth. Byrne had to go off but from the resultant penalty her replacement Niamh Reid Blake pulled off a tremendous save from Aguilar. If that decision was bizarre, the next big one by the referee was just as bad when she awarded a goal after Morales barged into Reid Burke and then punched the ball over the line.
Ireland had several chances after that to wrap the game up with the best opportunity falling to Fiona O’Sullivan but her chip over the advancing goalkeeper bounced the wrong side of the post.
Having watched her side dominate against Hungary and Slovakia and end up with just a draw from the former, Ireland manager Sue Ronan was pleased to have finally got a win.
“I think the girls deserved that win for the way they have played this week. It was good to finally take the chances we created in the first half and we probably should have gone in at half-time three up when Carol Breen was unlucky with a header close to the break. I think that would have really killed off the Costa Ricans, but what happened just after half-time was absolutely crazy. I don’t know how the referee could claim that Emma was guilty of a foul when she clearly got her fist to the ball first before the Costa Rican player collided with her! And for their goal there was a definite foul on Niamh Reid Burke, before the ball was bundled over the line by the attacker’s hand. So with fatigue setting in following four games in a week, their goal made it a bit nervy for the final 35 minutes, but the team dug in well and showed composure to see the game out,” said Ronan.
“It’s been a good week, I used 19 players out of the 21 and they all got decent game-time. We awarded four new caps and they got a taste of what it is like at this level. We are hoping to arrange a game before we go to the USA in May and the four games here this week will have done us a lot of good for the future. Megan Connolly and Lauren Dwyer were the only two players not used, as I keep saying it’s a big step up from U19s to senior, but I’ve no doubt the experience they have had this week will stand them in good stead for the future.”
Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (Arsenal); Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion); Stephanie Roche (Houston Dash), Niamh Fahey (Chelsea), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City); Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves), Carol Breen (Wexford Youths Women’s AFC), Katie McCabe (Raheny United).
Subs: Aine O'Gorman (UCD Waves) for Russell (46mins), Fiona O'Sullivan (Notts County) for Breen (46mins), Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United) for Byrne (48 mins), Meabh De Burca (Galway WFC) for McCabe (71 mins, Sarah Rowe (Raheny United) for Roche (80 mins).
Unused Subs: Lauren Dwyer (Raheny United), Megan Connolly (College Corinthians), Ciara Grant (UCD Waves).