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Pauw's Ireland battle to big Euro 2021 qualifier win in front of record crowd

Rianna Jarrett was excellent as the Girls in Green beat second seeds Ukraine 3-2 at Tallaght Stadium.

Ireland 3

Ukraine 2 

A NEW ERA opened with a win, as Vera Pauw got her reign up and running with a 3-2 victory over Ukraine and Ireland made it two wins from two in their Euro 2021 qualifiers in front of a record crowd at Tallaght Stadium 

katie-mccabe-celebrates-scoring-her-sides-first-goal-with-teammates An emotional Katie McCabe after scoring her side's first goal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

5,328 watched on as captain Katie McCabe and the brilliant Rianna Jarrett combined excellently to put Ireland into a 2-0 first-half lead, only for the visitors to capitalise on two errors to draw level by the 42nd minute.

But a second-half own goal ultimately handed Ireland the crucial three points in an overall positive performance which saw the Girls In Green take another step towards qualification for a first-ever major tournament.

And they did so in front of a lively crowd which surpassed the previous record of 4,047, which was set when Ireland hosted the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifier in April 2018 — but still well short of the sold-out fixture anticipated, after the FAI announced that all 8,000 tickets had been sold or claimed.

After a campaign opening 2-0 win over minnows Montenegro and the state of play in Group I, tonight was a massive fixture for Ireland, with a positive result needed against the group’s second seeds.

Ukraine — ranked joint 25th in the world, seven places above Ireland — came to town on the back of home and away 8-0 defeats to hugely dominant front-runners Germany, who also beat Greece 5-0 this afternoon and Montenegro 10-0 in their opener.

denise-osullivan-and-lyubov-shmatko Denise O’Sullivan and Lyubov Shmatko. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Pauw’s first squad showed some interesting inclusions with long-time absentees returning, and one of those, Celtic’s 2018/19 Player of the Year Keeva Keenan, was drafted straight into the Dutch woman’s first XI for her full debut.

Manchester City star Megan Campbell also started after missing the Montenegro opener, with the formation 4-3-3 from the get-go.

Ireland started brightly, looking comfortable on the ball and the importance of “purposeful possession” Pauw preaches evident. Just one minute in, they exercised long throw-in specialist Campbell, who in turn found Arsenal defender Louise Quinn in the box, but her header went wide.

The long throw brought plenty of joy in the first half, with Quinn again and her fellow centre-half Diane Caldwell both coming close off it, but Kateryna Samson dealt accordingly between the posts.

Ireland dominated possession from early doors and looked good down the right, but Ukraine came to Tallaght with a bite — that was evident 12 minutes in as Olha Basanska saw yellow for a crunching tackle on McCabe.

Creative up top, Player of the Match Jarrett saw an effort sail over, while Denise O’Sullivan was her typical workhorse self around the middle. Their efforts soon paid dividends and the deadlock was broken with 25 minutes on the clock. 

Ironically, it all came from a shaky moment before Marie Hourihan’s goal, but McCabe soon had Ireland 1-0 up after some brilliant work from Jarrett. The hometown hero blasted home the first goal of the Pauw era, and the crowd erupted. The teams’ celebration showed just how much that meant. 

Two minutes later, there were similar scenes as provider turned scorer and Wexford Youths ace Jarrett bagged her first international goal from a McCabe corner. 

2-0 up and cruising by 28 minutes, that lead was short-lived as two defensive errors saw Ukraine pull two goals back. The first came in the 33rd minute and it was Minsk’s Lyubov Shmatko who got the ball over the line after Hourihan let it through her hands in what should have been a straightforward catch.

And in the 42nd, there was a scramble in the box after Megan Connolly mis-kicked her clearance and Atletico Madrid’s Olha Ovdiychuk slotted home.

Ireland came out fighting on the restart, cheered on loudly as they had been by the home support throughout. Quinn came close to restoring the lead from a dangerous Connolly free-kick first, but Samson did well to keep the effort out. 

But it was Atleti’s Natiya Pantsulaya’s own goal in the 52nd minute — after another long throw from Camplell, trojan work from Jarrett and O’Sullivan’s shot in the scramble — that put Ireland back in front.

From there, it was a more cagey affair as Ukraine went in search of an equaliser and Ireland showed some scrappiness in defence. That said though, the Girls in Green had some moments of magic with Payne and McCabe both coming close with chances.

ireland-manager-vera-pauw Ireland boss Pauw. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The former was forced off through injury in the 70th minute, with West Ham 20-year-old Leanne Kiernan’s fresh legs welcome after an injury absence.

As the clock ran down, the game died down a small bit. Ukraine had a penalty shout, but referee Désirée Grundbacher waved it on, adjudging that Keenan won the ball.

There were chances at both ends as the game petered out, but a superb Campbell tackle and a heroic late save from Hourihan kept the scoreline at 3-2 as ‘Olé, olé’ rang out around the grounds. 

And the joy at the final whistle said it all as Pauw turned to her assistant, WNL veteran Eileen Gleeson, in celebration.

A major scalp and a huge step in the right direction, but focus now turns to a trip to Greece on 12 November as the race for second place — or to catch Germany, even — heats up.

Ireland: Hourihan; Keenan, Caldwell, Quinn, Campbell; Connolly, Fahey, O’Sullivan; Payne (Kiernan, 70), Jarrett, McCabe. 

Ukraine: Samson; Khimich, Pantsulaya, Apanaschenko, Shmatko, Basanska; Andrukhiv, Andrushchak (Kunina, 85), Kitayeva, Ovdiychuk; Kalinina (Romanenko, 68).

Referee: Désirée Grundbacher (Switzerland)

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About the author:

Emma Duffy  / Reports from Tallaght Stadium

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