Amber Barrett’s late winner keeps Ireland in hunt for World Cup

Colin Bell’s side get the better of scrappy encounter in Tallaght

Ireland’s Amber Barrett celebrates scoring the winning goal in the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifier against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland’s Amber Barrett celebrates scoring the winning goal in the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifier against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Republic of Ireland 2 Slovakia 1

Amber Barrett rescued the World Cup ambitions of the Republic of Ireland women’s team on Friday by smashing home a late winner against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium.

Facing the prospect of dropping two precious points to the group’s basement nation after Ireland goalkeeper Marie Hourihan’s own-goal handed Slovakia an equaliser 19 minutes from end, substitute Barrett popped up with four minutes left to plunder the ball from 10 yards.

The victory maintains Ireland’s unbeaten run, which has now accrued 10 points from their four qualifiers, moving them to second in Group Three. The Netherlands, whom Ireland host on Tuesday, lead the group ahead of Ireland on goal difference after they beat Northern Ireland 7-0.

Colin Bell’s side will need to improve for the rematch against the European champions, having struggled for fluency on a windswept afternoon in Dublin 24.

Slovakia’s gameplan of frustrating the Irish worked a treat in the first half as the Girls in Green were restricted to half-chances for captain Katie McCabe and Leanne Kiernan.

Ireland’s Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring the first goal in the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifier against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Ireland’s Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring the first goal in the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifier against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The stalemate persisted until the 69th minute when Diane Caldwell’s pass from her own half allowed Kiernan nip ahead of Patricia Fischerova and nod the ball towards goal. The Cavan teenager showed a cool head to hare clear and beat Maria Korenclova inside her near post.

From that high in front of 3,500 fans, came the jab of conceding just four minutes later. All seemed under control when Jana Vojtekova lofted a cross in from the left but Hourihan inexplicably allowed the ball deflect off her shin and drop into the net.

That provoked Bell into action by springing Barrett from the bench, with Kiernan deployed to the wing, and the tactic worked as a long ball from player of the match Karen Duggan unhinged the defence. The Donegal native still had work to do but blasted her shot into the corner despite Korenclova getting a hand to the effort.

“It was a scrap but a well-deserved victory,” declared Bell afterwards. “We didn’t get any shots on goal in the first half and played more intelligently as the game progressed. Although the equaliser caused some shock amongst the players, they showed plenty of character to grab the winner.”

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: M Hourihan (Manchester City); S Perry-Campbell (Brighton & Hove Albion), L Quinn (Arsenal), D Caldwell (SC Sand), K Duggan (Peamount Utd); N Fahey (Bordeaux), M Connolly (Florida State); R Littlejohn (Celtic), D O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), K McCabe (Arsenal); L Kiernan (Shelbourne).

Sub: A Barrett (Peamount Utd) for Littlejohn (78 mins).

SLOVAKIA: M Korenclova; L Suskova, P Fischerova, D Bartovicova, J Vojtekova; P Hmirova, A Biroova, M Mikolajova (L Harsanyova, 89) mins, V Susolova, M Surnovska (K Fabova, 83 mins); D Skorvankova.

Referee: Simona Ghisletta (Sui)

Attendance: 3,521.

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