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Ireland boss Pauw: 'I am too proud of this team to call it relief. It was a battle and we deserved to win'

The Girls In Green held on for a crucial victory over the Greeks in Euro 2021 qualification.

Vera Pauw celebrates with captain Katie McCabe.
Vera Pauw celebrates with captain Katie McCabe.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND BOSS VERA Pauw says she is “too proud of this team to call it relief” after their nervy — but massive — 1-0 win over Euro 2021 qualifying group rivals Greece.

Diane Caldwell, on the night of her 75th cap, was the goal-scoring hero on the stroke of half-time as unbeaten Ireland held on at Tallaght Stadium to remain unbeaten and second in Group I. 

After the Greeks stole a draw in injury time in Athens, it was feared the same could happen again in the closing stages, but Ireland held firm after a dominant performance for a deserved victory.

“It was a battle, again,” Pauw said after her third game in charge — Ireland beat second seeds Ukraine 3-2 in her first outing at the helm and then there was that 1-1 draw.

“We know the Greeks. They are so difficult to play against, we should have scored more. They were always compact.

It’s not relief. I am too proud of this team to call it relief, it’s been a battle and we deserved to win but maybe it’s relief that we got through the last few minutes.

While Caldwell, who plays her club football in Germany, was the hero, Player of the Match Ruesha Littlejohn and substitute Amber Barrett were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. That said, three points was all that mattered at the end of the day.

After tonight, the Girls In Green remain second in the group — six points clear of Greece — with all-conquering Germany well out in front. Pauw’s side face Montenegro away on Wednesday with themselves and Ukraine yet to collect any points.

The group winners and three best second-placed sides qualify automatically, while the six other runners-up head for play-offs.

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Screenshot 2020-03-05 at 22.39.12 Source: Uefa.com.

“The good thing is that we have left Greece behind us in the group, and that is a very, very good thing,” Dutch native Pauw added, with the German double-header and Ukraine away tie also yet to play on the road to England 2021.

“I don’t see Ukraine taking all the points from their games but we need to see. It’s a very difficult team to play against, we will see how that goes but I am so happy with the three points [against Greece tonight] as it turned out to be the same kind of game as the away game.

It was like ‘not again’ late on. It was also tight here against Ukraine in the last few minutes so we need to score more goals, that’s what it is. We are working on that… teamwork in the last phase is the most difficult.

“We could build up to a certain level but in the last phase it was just too early or too late, and that is teamwork that grows by playing together. We will have had more time before Wednesday.”

Pauw has welcomed Stephanie Roche back into the squad ahead of the Montenegro clash, with Chloe Mustaki sustaining an injury in training. Ireland fly to Montenegro on Saturday.

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Emma Duffy

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