Republic of Ireland women keep World Cup qualification hopes alive
Goals from Julie Ann Russell and Fiona O’Sullivan secure 2-0 win over Slovenia
Republic of Ireland players celebrate Fiona O’Sullivan’s goal against Slovenia at Tallaght Stadium last night. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
A long-range Russell goal after just two minutes could have triggered a landslide against the group’s basement nation at Tallaght but Sue Ronan’s side instead became ragged and only put the tie beyond doubt 14 minutes from time through O’Sullivan.
The victory moves Ireland to within two points of Russia in the pursuit of second spot and a play-off shot at reaching next year’s finals. Ireland will conclude their campaign next month with a double-header away to Slovakia and group victors Germany.
Ireland’s dream start arrived when Denise O’Sullivan was hauled down by Anisa Rola 40 yards out on the left side.
It appeared that reigning player of the year Russell would deliver a cross but she elected to shoot and looped the ball high over the stranded Lucija Mori in the visitors’ goal.
Although the Irish went about building on that lead by rampaging forward in numbers, their efforts came unstuck through a combination of poor finishing and better goalkeeping from Mori.
The Slovenian stopper stooped low to produce a superb save to bat away Diane Caldwell’s header after Russell’s left-wing cross found her unmarked at the back post.
That amounted to Ireland’s best chance during the remainder of the half, allowing an extremely Slovenia side gain a foothold in midfield and frustrate the hosts.
Indeed, the slide continued after the break and twice in the space of space of four minutes the Girls in Green were only spared the embarrassment of conceding an equaliser by the width of the woodwork.
Firstly, on 58 minutes, Kaja Erzen seized upon defensive hesitancy to fire a shot from the edge of the box that hit the post and rebounded into Emma Byrne’s hands. The Arsenal stopper was once again relieved to see Mateja Zver’s opportunistic 35-yard lob crash off the crossbar when the ball has floated over her head.
For all their sluggishness, Ireland soon added the second to settle the nerves. Aine O’Gorman’s right-wing cross was controlled by O’Sullivan on her chest and the American prodded her 13th goal past Mori.
REP OF IRELAND: Byrne; O’Gorman, Quinn, Fahey, Duggan; Caldwell, Gorman (Littlejohn 46 mins); Roche (Killeen 59 mins), D O’Sullivan (Smyth 67 mins), Russell; F O’Sullivan.
Referee: Linn Anderson (SWE).