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Early goal defeats Ireland again but more encouraging signs ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Vera Pauw’s side suffered a 1-0 loss against Belgium.

Katie McCabe has a penalty denied after a tackle from Kassandra Missipo.
Katie McCabe has a penalty denied after a tackle from Kassandra Missipo.
Image: Patrick Smets/INPHO

A SECOND SUCCESSIVE friendly defeat, but more positives to build on for the Republic of Ireland as they continue their preparations for the World Cup qualifiers.

A 14th-minute volley from Tine De Caigny was the solitary goal of the night as Belgium — who are ranked 17th in the world — overcame Vera Pauw’s outfit in the King Baudouin Stadium. It was Ireland’s second 1-0 defeat of the week after losing out to Denmark on Thursday.

And a second occasion where a goal was conceded in the early stages.

But just as they did against the Danes, Ireland produced plenty of encouraging passages of play and were unlucky not to earn a draw on a night when captain Katie McCabe earned her 50th international cap.

The De Caigny goal came from a set piece after Laura de Neve whipped a free-kick into a dangerous position in the Ireland box off her left foot.

Ireland keeper Courtney Brosnan raced off her line to gather the delivery but De Caigny managed to get a connection first and put the Belgians in front.

The hosts came close to doubling their advantage moments later. Janice Cayman slipped in behind the Ireland cover after taking a pass from Tessa Wullaert. From just outside the near post, she unleashed a powerful shot, which was kept out by the foot of Brosnan.

Despite that burst of pressure, Ireland settled and responded with a string of probing attacks. 

Kyra Carusa, making her first start for Ireland, was through for a shot on goal shortly after but she had wandered into an offside position before she could apply the finish to a slip pass from Heather Payne.

Pauw’s side continued to test and stretch their opponents up to the break, with McCabe engineering one more attack before half-time. She gathered a kick-out with a lovely touch and raced towards the Belgian box before trying to feed Payne with a cross.

But there was too much pace on the pass and the opportunity drifted away as both sides headed for the dressing-rooms.

Ireland stormed into action on the restart, injecting lots of intent in their play. They had a penalty call denied in the opening minutes of the second half after McCabe squeezed through the Belgian line to create a one-on-one scenario.

But before she could register a shot at goal, Kassandra Missipo — who was already on a yellow card — barreled in to out-muscle the Ireland skipper. McCabe screamed her case to the referee but her calls for a spot-kick were waved away as play continued.

There were some nervy moments for the visitors as the second half progressed. Megan Connolly produced an excellent piece of defending to slide across and block a goal-bound shot.

De Caigny should have doubled her tally on 53 minutes when she rose highest to get on the end of a cross from Wullaert, but she saw her effort drift out wide of the post.

Pauw unloaded the reinforcements in the latter stages of the second half, and her substitutes made a noticeable impact.

Emily Whelan cleverly drew a free on the edge of the box, creating another opportunity for Ireland to snatch an equaliser.

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Littlejohn stood over the free-kick and curled a powerful shot towards the top corner. But credit to Justien Odeurs, who got her palm behind the ball and parried away for a corner.

Louise Quinn and Rianna Jarrett also made an impression when they were introduced, combining effectively to try and trouble Odeurs again. Jarrett timed her run perfectly to get on the end of a header from Quinn, but her first-time shot wasn’t enough to get that elusive goal for Ireland.

The Brighton attacker had another attempt at the target in the closing minutes, but there wasn’t enough power in the strike as Ireland were condemned to defeat again.

Belgium: Justien Odeurs; Laura Deloose (Wijnants ’65), Amber Tysiak, Laura De Neve (Onzia ’20), Janice Cayman; Kassandra Missipo, Justine Vanhaevermaet, Julie Biesmans; Feli Delacauw (Vanmechelen ’65), Tine De Caigny; Tessa Wullaert.

Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan; Claire O’Riordan, Diane Caldwell, Claire Walsh [Quinn 83]; Alli Murphy [O’Gorman HT], Katie McCabe; Megan Connolly [Nolan '75], Ruesha Littlejohn [Jarrett '83]; Denise O’Sullivan; Heather Payne [Whelan '67], Kyra Carusa [Molloy '67].

Referee: Lizzy Van Der Helm [Netherlands]

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