Donall Farmer/INPHO

Tough Champions League opener for Wexford Youths but reasons for optimism

The dominant force in Irish women’s football have two more group matches this week.

Wexford Youths Women’s FC 1

BIIK-Kazygurt 3

BACK-TO-BACK Continental Tyres Women’s National League champions Wexford Youths Women’s FC suffered a 3-1 defeat in their opening UEFA Champions League qualifying round tie against Kazakhstan side BIIK-Kazygurt in Ferrycarrig Park in the first of three group matches this week.

The first-half saw BIIK-Kazygurt control the game and lead 3-0 at the break, but a spirited second-half performance from Wexford Youths, which saw them score and have a goal harshly disallowed, will give them plenty of confidence for their next two games this week.

The Youths hadn’t even got going when they fell behind in just the second minute with Gulnara Gabelia firing home from close range.

Jessica Gleeson Wexford had a number of senior Irish internationals involved, including Jessica Gleeson.

Youths defender Jessica Gleeson was alert and cleared the danger minutes later as Gabelia almost to made it 2-0. The Youths looked to get back into the game when Emma Hansberry’s drilled corner from the left caused problems in the Kazygurt defence with keeper Oksana Zheleznyak spilling, but no Youths player could get a strike on goal.

Kazygurt continued to control possession and doubled their lead through the lively Charity Adule. Great play from Yulia Myasnikova and Gabelia set up Adule to fire past Youths keeper Tamara Furlong to make it 2-0.

Furlong kept the Youths in the game with a great save on the half-hour mark. Ihezuo linked up well with Gabelia but Furlong was alert to deny the striker her second of the game.

But as half-time approached the Youths fell further behind. Alina Litvinenko got possession on the left wing, and the ball toward goal evaded keeper Furlong and nestled in the back of the net for 3-0. Lauren Dwyer went close for the Youths in first-half stoppage time but her strike went just over Zheleznyak’a crossbar.

The home side started the second-half well and Nicola Sinnott and Linda Douglas linked up well with the latter crossing, but after a scramble in the box, BIIK-Kazygurt cleared.

Claire O'Riordan with Susan Hackett Claire O'Riordan (left) found the net on a disappointing night for her Wexford side. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

But the Youths deservedly got back into the game ten minutes into the second half. Maria Delahunty fired in the free-kick from the just inside the BIIK-Kazygurt half which keeper Zheleznyak couldn’t hold, and Youths striker Claire O’Riordan was on hand to fire home.

Delahunty went close herself minutes later with an acrobatic overhead kick but keeper Zheleznyak saved. At the other end, Furlong kept the Youths in the game with a superb low save from Ihezuo.

The Youths continued to press and had a goal harshly disallowed when the referee adjudged the keeper to have been fouled, before Zheleznyak was forced into a brilliant one-handed save from Hansberry’s long-range strike. The chances kept coming and Dwyer kept the Youths in with a chance with 12 minutes to go. Litvinenko played a through ball for Gabelia who rounded the keeper, but Dwyer got back to make a vital goalline clearance.

The Youths pressed but couldn’t find another goal to give them a chance and go into their second game, this Thursday, after a valiant second-half performance.

Wexford Youths: Tamara Furlong, Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Jessica Gleeson, Orlaith Condon (Amy Walsh 38); Linda Douglas, Kylie Murphy, Emma Hansberry, Aisling Frawley; Maria Delahunty; Claire O’Riordan.

BIIK-Kazygurt: Oksana Zheleznyak; Darya Kravets (Yekaterina Babshuk 81), Kristina Mashkova, Yekaterina Krasyukova (Josephine Ngandi Ngandi 90+3), Yulia Myasnikova; Charity Adule, Annette Jacky Messomo, Alina Litvinenko; Gulnara Gabelia, Chinwendu Veronica Ihezuo.

Referee: Florence Guillemin.

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