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Second-half fightback comes too late, as Ireland suffer defeat in Iceland

Heather Payne and Amber Barrett were both on target for Vera Pauw’s side.

Iceland’s Agla Maria Albertsdottir celebrates after scoring a goal.
Iceland’s Agla Maria Albertsdottir celebrates after scoring a goal.
Image: Eggert Johannesson/INPHO

A POOR first-half showing ultimately proved costly, as Ireland suffered a disappointing 3-2 friendly defeat away to Iceland.

Vera Pauw’s side found themselves 3-0 down at half-time, as the hosts made their dominance count and capitalised on some inept defending in the opening 45.

Ireland were much better after the break, and Heather Payne got them off the mark in the 49th minute.

Amber Barrett then added a second with a fine finish in second-half stoppage time, but it was too little too late for her team.

Iceland took the lead after 10 minutes. A long ball over the top caught out the Irish defence, as Agla María Albertsdóttir broke the offside trap before producing a classy finish, chipping the onrushing Grace Moloney.

Just three minutes later, the home side doubled their advantage. The Irish defence failed to deal with a dangerous cross and Iceland skipper Alexandra Johannsdottir was on hand to convert from close range.

A miserable first half for the Irish continued in the 39th minute. Karólína Lea Vilhjalmsdottir’s initial effort from the edge of the area came back off the post, but the Irish defence were slow to react, and Dagný Brynjarsdóttir was allowed to comfortably convert the rebound.

A clearly unimpressed Pauw made two substitutions at half-time, with Amber Barrett and Eabha O’Mahony replacing debutant Aoife Colvill and Niamh Farrelly, and these changes contributed to Ireland’s improvement.

Katie McCabe provided the low cross that resulted in the visitors scoring four minutes later. Barrett was involved too, helping the ball on, before Payne slotted home to give her side faint hopes of a comeback.

Both sides had chances to score thereafter, with Ireland carrying more of a threat compared with the opening period.

But it wasn’t until second-half stoppage time that they scored again.

Niamh Fahey’s incisive through ball found Barrett, who rounded off an impressive 45-minute stint on the pitch with a low finish from a tight angle that went in off the post.

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It was a frustrating evening on the whole for the Irish team. Pauw will be concerned by the manner of the first-half display in particular while taking some heart from the resilience they demonstrated after the break.

“You can never start the way that we did and everyone is aware of that,” the Irish boss said afterwards. “It’s not that we are not aware of that, it’s not that it has not been highlighted but because of the circumstances it cost us a couple of goals and that cannot happen anymore.

“During the first half we rearranged the midfield to stop more goals from going in, which helped, but at half-time we decided to have more pressure on the wings so we brought on Éabha (O’Mahony) so that Katie (McCabe) could go forward and that helped us.

“We need to be more clinical (in front of goal) but what I liked is that we put a lot of pressure forward after the first half that we came through. We are capable of jumping up to that level and we will face these difficult circumstances again against Sweden and Finland so it’s good that we are experiencing it now and learning how to deal with it.”

Ireland (34th), who are 17th places below Iceland in the Fifa rankings, face them again on Tuesday, as preparations for the World Cup qualifiers continue.

Iceland: Sandra Sigurðardóttir; Elísa Viðarsdóttir, Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir, Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir, Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir (Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir), Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir, Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (Karitas Tómsdóttir), Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir, Elín Metta Jensen (Berglind Björg Þorvaldsdóttir), Agla María Albertsdóttir (Kristín Dís Árnadóttir), Áslaug Munda Gunnlaugsdóttir.

Republic of Ireland: Moloney; Finn, Fahey, Caldwell, Quinn, McCabe; Farrelly (O’Mahony 46), Connolly; Colvill (Barrett 46), O’Sullivan, Payne.

Referee: Rebecca Welch (England).

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