Ireland’s early promise overwhelmed by Spain

Victory means Spain sit top of Group Two, while Ireland remain third with six points

Despite a fantastic first-half performance, the Republic of Ireland women's team were defeated 3-0 yesterday in Madrid as Spain made it 18 points from 18 in Group Two.

A controversial penalty decision in the second minute handed Spain the opportunity of an ideal start. Captain Verónica Boquete stepped up to drill the ball to Emma Byrne's left only for the Ireland goalkeeper to make a stunning save.

The hosts continued to command possession but failed to create another clear cut chance until, 39 minutes in, a cross from the left wing found Celia Jiménez, but her on-target header was thwarted by Niamh Fahey.

Ireland came more and more into the game and, following a cynical foul on Denise O'Sullivan, Julie-Ann Russell's free kick was nodded down in the box by Louise Quinn and Stephanie Roche was inches from giving Ireland the lead.

Playing into the wind in the second half, Ireland came out fighting. A marauding run from Katie McCabe saw the winger win a free kick on the edge of the Spain area. Roche stepped up to take the shot only for Dolores Gallardo in the Spanish goal to save.

Disaster struck in the 59th minute as a quick one-two saw Alexia Putellas get to the end line and cross for Bouquet to fire home. Ireland faced an uphill battle from there and just six minutes later Spain added a second.

Leila Ouahabi found space on the left flank to whip an inviting ball to the back post where Boquete, again, powered a header into the far corner.

Sue Ronan made immediate changes with Jessica Gleeson and Ruesha Littlejohn coming on for Niamh Fahey and Julie-Ann Russell as Ireland pushed to get back in the game. Spain showed just why they are top of the group with maximum points as they continued to look dangerous in the final third. Jennifer Hermoso found the net in the 86th minute. Louise Quinn cleared a cross from Celia Jimenez but Hermoso buried the loose ball past Byrne from 18 yards to seal the 3-0 win.

Next up for the Irish is a trip to Finland in June before hosting Montenegro four days later.