Shellshocked Ireland left to reflect on a self-inflicted defeat
Crucial own goal and a missed penalty the key moments of a bitterly disappointing night in Kiev
Vera Pauw: saw her Republic of Ireland side suffer a crushiing 1-0 defeat to Ukraine at the Obolon Arena, Kiev. Photograph: Aleksandar Djorovic/Inpho
Having felt they were on the cusp of making some history going to Kiev, the Irish team return home on the verge of elimination from these European Championships after defeat in a game they should have won caused by a goal they should certainly never have conceded.
Vera Pauw’s side would still be assured of a place in the play-offs next April if they can beat top seeds Germany in Tallaght and would almost certainly progress if Ukraine fail to win in Greece on Tuesday.
So widely accepted was it that Ireland could not count on beating the eight -times champions before this game, though, that Kiev was spoken of almost as if it was the end of the campaign and Pauw didn’t seem to hold out much hope last night of Ukraine slipping up in Athens.
That may mean Ireland’s fate has indeed been decided by this defeat which will make it that much harder for all involved to reflect upon.
Despite missing a first-half penalty, Katie McCabe had looked every inch a leader through the game, relentlessly trying to drive those around her on but the scale of her disappointment was all too apparent as the players gathered in a circle after the final whistle and tried to come to terms with the fact that a huge opportunity had just slipped through their fingers.
Some must have been hurting more than others however with Áine O’Gorman and Courtney Brosnan reflecting, no doubt, on their role in the own goal that handed the home side their 1-0 win.
Amber Barrett, meanwhile, might have been wondering why, after having come into the squad off the back of three goals in three for Koln, she was given just four minutes to make her mark at the end of a game in which Ireland had long since looked in need of changes that might bring some new impetus.
It turned out that while her players had been trying to stick to their original game plan even after it had stopped looking likely to generate the result required, Pauw had been sticking rigidly to her own too.
“We pulled Katie back so that we could have two left-footers on the side but we only planned to do that five minutes from the end because the chance of another goal was big if we pushed Louise [Quinn] up,” she said.
“You think that if you do that earlier then you will get more pressure but if you do it earlier: first, you don’t get the pressure and second, you will get a goal against you.”
There was a bit more to it, of course, and Pauw, as ever, made it all sound reasonably logical. As is often the way with these things unfortunately, however, the only way it would have actually sounded right was if Ireland had won.