St. Francis come from three down to claim Champions League win
St. Francis almost concluded a fairytale story in the UEFA Women’s Champions’ League group stages, a fantastic second half display saw the green and white hoops turn around a three goal half-time deficit to win the tie against NK Osijek 5-3.
The result follows a previous 4-1 victory over Portuguese champions, 1° Dezembro which was followed by an unfortunate 9-0 defeat to Russian champions, FC Rossiyanka. St. Francis finished group 6 in second on six points behind the Russian champions.
The Croatian champions were expected to start competitively and would be looking to gain their first points of what had been a disappointing tournament for the Balkan club. When they opened the scoring after just three minutes and converted a penalty after seven minutes, the result was looking ominous for the Dublin club.
The Croats added a third on 17 minutes and looked in control of the game until the break. The Irish girls started the second half the brighter and created a few opportunities but on 56th minutes, Welsh international Cheryl Foster was fouled on the edge of the box. Irish senior international Sonya Hughes struck the resulting free kick to the back of the net, with captain Sandra Mulhall adding a second two minutes later.
When Kelly Jones was fouled in a similar position to Cheryl Foster moments later, Hughes again rose to the challenge stroking the ball over the wall into the far corner. The host side never looked like scoring again and goals from Kelly Jones and Aoife Herbert in the final 13 minutes sealed the victory and second place in the group.
St. Francis, Head Coach Breifne Earley was delighted with the second half performance "We had watched the video of the Croatians against the Russians and against the Portuguese earlier in the week, and we expected them to come out of the traps early in the game, we had discussed the possibility of having to come back from behind to win the game."
"The girls had a good talk at the break, and full credit must go to the team, some of the players really stood up to the mark and
produced outstanding performances in the second period."
"It’s hard to take that we finish second in the group and are eliminated, but I suppose we knew that was a possibility coming over
here. We knew from last year that the Russians were outstanding, but fancied our chances of taking a scalp off the other two sides, to go home with two victories and having scored nine goals is a first for any Irish side at this level."
Sonya Hughes who scored from two free kicks in the second half, was delighted ?We always believed that we could come back into the game, we knew that we could expose them with our pace and quick passing, and it was just a matter of time before we managed to get on the score sheet.
"We knew if we could get one, they wouldn’t be able to get their heads back on the game, and that the possibility of more goals was always there."
With the structure of the competition meaning that only the group winners and the runners up with the best records advance, the result
against the Russian side means that St. Francis will not progress and are knocked out of the UEFA Women’s Champions League on goal difference.
St. Francis: Charlotte McCormack, Niamh Nolan, Grace Murray, Caroline McEvoy, Emily Hanney, Sonya Hughes, Sandra Mulhall, Kelly Jones, Karin Niclasson, Cheryl Foster, Aoife Herbert.
Substitutes: Rebecca Dowling for Grace Murray (45 mins, Inj), Michelle O’Reilly for Karin Niclasson (78 mins), Erica Cahill for Niamh Nolan (89 mins), Eilis McManus, Louise Corrigan, Saidhbh Collins.