Republic of Ireland edged out by early goal in Belgium
Vera Pauw’s side fall to another narrow friendly defeat after Tine De Caigny’s strike
Katie McCabe is brought down by Kassandra Missipo during Belgium’s win over Ireland. Photograph: Patrick Smets/Inpho
Belgium 1 Republic of Ireland 0
Once again, the concession of a soft early goal undid the Republic of Ireland women and they lost to Belgium in Sunday evening’s friendly in Brussels.
Manager Vera Pauw had preached the importance of defensive discipline in the aftermath of Thursday’s loss to Denmark but another lapse cost them a draw against a side ranked 17th in the world.
Goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, one of six changes to the side, was exposed on her third cap from Laura De Neve’s inswinging free-kick after just 14 minutes.
The West Ham United stopper reacted too late after Tine De Caigny evaded her marker Megan Connolly to ghost into the six-yard box and volley the cross beyond her.
De Caigny was one of six players from league leaders Anderlecht in Belgium’s starting team and her dozen goals along their path to qualifying for next year’s European Championships earned her the golden boot.
The hosts certainly had the look of a well-drilled club team during a first half Ireland struggled to get out of their half.
Brosnan had to be alert on 25 minutes to block a stinging cross-shot from Janice Cayman, denying the Lyon winger a goal to mark the occasion of her equally the country’s record of 111 caps.
Gradually, Ireland’s nervous opening gave way to a more composed approach.
Heather Payne’s energy in attack began to penetrate, firstly with a pass that Kyra Carusa had marginally strayed offside to receive and then from her shot seven minutes before the break which Justien Odeurs spilled before gathering.
It took an intervention too from Justine Vanhaevermaet to cut out Katie McCabe’s cross aimed to meet her onrushing run.
McCabe, celebrating her 50th cap, had a penalty appeal rejected following a challenge from Kassandra Missipo straight after the restart while, at the other end, the unmarked De Caigny spurned a sitter by firing wide at the back post.
Pauw shook things up by introducing substitutes, with Emily Whelan impressive again off the bench.
The Shelbourne teenager was involved in Ireland’s best chance to equalise with 13 minutes left, drawing a foul from Lenie Onzia on the edge of the box. Ruseha Littlejohn’s rising drive was tipped over the crossbar by Odeurs.
Louise Quinn also had an impact off the bench, using her aerial power when thrust into an attacking role.
With four minutes left, her flick-on allowed fellow sub Rianna Jarrett to connect with a volley that Odeurs turned around the post.
The Brighton striker got one last sight of goal in stoppage time-from Denise O’Sullivan’s pass, only to scuff her tame effort straight at the relieved goalkeeper.
Ireland will discover their opposition for World Cup qualification when the draw is made on April 30th. Pauw will assemble her players for another pair of friendlies in June before the competitive campaign commences in September.
“We’re getting closer, closer and closer,” said Pauw after the defeat, the fifth in a row suffered by Ireland.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t get the rewards. “We played better than Denmark. We were running after Belgium at the start but picked up and pressed them better than we did against Denmark.
“We should have scored three times, whereas they had one chance after their goal.”
Asked what is required to improve Ireland’s fortunes, she said: “We just need to score. That is the most difficult part. The rest will develop if we start to score.
“You have to force your luck but it will come. I’m proud of the players who were thrown in, some of them did really well in the game. They will make life difficult for me.”
Belgium: J Odeurs; L Deloose (S Wijnants 65), L De Neve (L Onzia 20), A Tysiak; F Delacauw (D Vanmechelen 65), K Missipo, J Biesmans, J Vanhaevermaet, J Cayman; T Wullaert, T De Caigny.
Republic of Ireland: C Brosnan; A Murphy (O’Gorman 46), C O’Riordan, D Caldwell, C Walsh (L Quinn 82), K McCabe; D O’Sullivan, M Connolly (H Nolan 74), R Littlejohn (R Jarrett 82); H Payne (E Whelan 67), K Carusa (E Molloy 67).
Referee: Lizzy Van Der Helm (Netherlands).