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Ireland's women suffer setback in World Cup qualification bid with defeat to Russia

Sue Ronan’s side lost 3-1 to the visitors at Tallaght Stadium tonight.

Fiona O'Sullivan at the final whistle.
Fiona O'Sullivan at the final whistle.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland 1
Russia 3

IRELAND’S HOPES OF claiming second spot in Group One of the UEFA World Cup qualifiers were dealt a huge blow at Tallaght Stadium tonight.

Their main rivals for the play-off place, Russia, started the evening with a two-point lead over third placed Ireland, which has now been stretched to five.

Goals in the opening 12 minutes from Ekaterina Sochneva and Ekaterina Pantyukhina gave Sue Ronan’s side a mountain to climb. Fiona O’Sullivan struck the best goal of the evening in the 35th minute to give the home fans a glimmer of hope but Pantyukhina fired in Russia’s third just before the break to seal the win.

Russia’s passing and movement was excellent from the kick-off and Ireland found it hard to get to grips with the pace of the game, especially in the middle of the park. Central midfielder Olga Petrova pulled the strings for the visitors who took just seven minutes to open the scoring.

It began with an Irish corner which was cleared away but as Sophie Perry and Aine O’Gorman delayed over reclaiming possession, Sochneva and Pantyukhina broke.

It looked like the duo were on the verge of finding the net but Perry’s last ditch tackle knocked the ball out for a corner. The first one was cleared but the second taken by Elena Morozova was driven home by the head of an unmarked Sochneva.

The Irish team pose for a picture Ireland's starting line-up. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Sochneva turned provider just five minutes later. The Russian left winger cut in off the flank to fire a diagonal ball towards the Irish back post. Again the home defence were guilty of failing to pick up the runners and the striker Pantyukhina made a dash into the six yard box before sliding and tucking the ball home.

Russia were dealt a blow as their goalkeeper Elvira Todua went off with a shoulder injury in the 23rd minute and Irish boss Ronan decided to make a tactical switch at the same time.

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Striker Stephanie Roche replaced an angry Dora Gorman in midfield to allow Shannon Smyth to drop deep. The change didn’t seem to make a huge difference but Ireland were given a glimmer of hope not long after.

O’Gorman who put in a good shift all night down the right flank stuck a high cross into the opposition box which Russian skipper Ksenia Tsybutovich failed to clear. Fiona O’Sullivan muscled the centre-half off the ball before turning and firing an excellent half-volley into the bottom corner.

Ekaterina Pantyukhina is congratulated by teammates Russian team-mates congratulate goalscorer Ekaterina Pantyukhina as Ireland's Dora Gorman and goalkeeper Emma Byrne look on. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Despite closing the gap, Ireland never really looked like catching their guests and the home team’s fate was sealed just two minutes before the half-time whistle. Again it was the deadly duo of Sochneva and Pantyukhina causing trouble up front. The former crossed and the latter fired it home from close range as again Ireland failed to clear the danger.

The second-half proved to be a bit of a non-event until the last fifteen minutes when Ireland had a couple of very good chances. The best, from Roche, who pounced on a loose ball outside the box in the 75th minute and hit a superb volley from outside the box which bounced agonisingly of the top of the bar.

Fiona O’Sullivan went close with a header just two minutes later but try as they might, Ireland just couldn’t find the back of the net.

The Girls in Green face Croatia at home on June 14th before making the trip to Russia for the return fixture five days later.

IRELAND: Byrne (C), De Burca, Quinn, Caldwell, Perry, Gorman (Roche 23), Smyth, O’Sullivan, Russell (Littlejohn 88), F.O’Sullivan, O’Gorman (Kileen 70). Substitutes: Reid-Burke, Tracy, Duggan, Grant.
RUSSIA: Todua (Kochneva 23), Orlova, Petrova, Dmitrenko, Terekhova, Sochneva, Sidorovskaya (Makarenko 85), Pantyukhina, Medved, Tsybutovich (C), Morozova. Substitutes: Pushkareva, Tsidikova, Akimova, Kostareva, Korovkima.

Referee: Thalia Mitsi

Attendance: 1,503.

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Stephen Doyle

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