Heartbreak exit for Girls in Green
Republic of Ireland 1-2 Japan
The Republic of Ireland women's U17 side were defeated 2-1 by a strong Japanese side in the FIFA Women's U17 World Cup quarter-final in Trinidad on Friday night. Ireland's World Cup hopes were dented in the 34th minute when Canadian referee, Michelle Pye gifted a penalty to Japan as Maomoto duly converted but Ireland hit back in the 53rd minute through Denise O'Sullivan (Pictured scoring) who was in sensational form for the Irish throughout. However, Japan's top goal scorer, Yokohama was on-hand in the 67th minute to score a marvelous goal to send Japan through to the World Cup semi-final as Ireland face the long journey home after a tremendous World Cup campaign which they can be incredibly proud of.
In a lively opening to the game, Ireland started brightly and they had the games first real chance as Dora Gorman forced a save from Hirao in Japan's goal after two minutes.
Japanese attacker, Yokohama went close for Japan in the 16th minute when she unleashed a powerful effort at Grace Moloney but the Irish keeper was well positioned to save from Japan's top scorer. Two minutes later, Yokohama was once again causing problems in Ireland's defence when she collected the ball deep inside the Irish half and burst through the Irish defence but her right footed shot went just wide.
Ireland went close minutes later through Siobhán Killeen and Denise O'Sullivan. In the 20th minute, Killeen showed a remarkable turn of pace to beat her defender but her shot from distance was well saved by the Japanese keeper while three minutes later, the ever dangerous Denise O'Sullivan showed great skill on the edge of the box but her effort was once again saved by the Japanese captain, Hirao.
In a pulsating period to the game, Irish defender, Megan Campbell went close with her free-kick from 30 yards but almost instantly, Japan broke down the field as Nakada fired her shot wide of goal from just 10 yards. The Japanese defence were having trouble dealing with the attacking threat of the Irish and Siobhán Killeen almost capitalised in the 33rd minute when she intercepted the ball in the middle of the field but her effort from 25 yards was again saved by the keeper.
Japan were in front a minute later when Megan Campbell was adjudged to have fouled Yokohama in Ireland's box and Maomoto stepped up to force her spot-kick past the out-stretched Grace Moloney. Much to the amazement to the crowd at the Larry Gomes Stadium, the decision of referee, Pye was made even more controversial when her linesperson signaled for a corner-kick with no appeal coming from any Japanese players
Yokohama could have doubled Japan's lead in the 39th minute but Grace Moloney was on-hand yet again to make a remarkable save from her stinging shot from 15 yards.
Japan finished the second half strongly and they had two glorious opportunities to extend the lead as Jennifer Byrne made a fantastic last-ditch block on Kawashima while Grace Moloney made a point blank save from Kato who had the goal at her mercy.
Ireland emerged invigorated from Noel King's half-time team talk and they had a number of chances early on as Megan Campbell and Jessica Gleeson each went close from long range free-kicks. However, Ireland were level in the 53rd minute when Stacie Donnelly played a teasing ball over the top of Japan's defence and as goalkeeper, Hirao and her defender, Takagi collided on the edge of the box, Denise O'Sullivan was on-hand to nip in ahead of the defence as she shot the ball into an empty net.
Japan regained the lead in the 67th minute in what was a remarkable move after Ireland came agonisingly close from a corner kick, Japan broke on a counter attack, playing in Yokohama who turned Ciara O'Brien and she unleashed an unstoppable shot from 15 yards, giving Moloney absolutely no chance.
From there on in, Ireland were on the front foot as they went in search of an elusive equaliser. Megan Campbell went close once again with a free-kick from 25 yards which was again saved by Hirao and with the introduction of Rianna Jarrett in the 70th minute, it gave Ireland an extra attacking option up front.
Ireland came agonisingly close to the equaliser in the 81st minute when Siobhán Killeen burst her way through Japan's box and she played it to Jarrett who evaded the challenge of the defence and squared it to Donnelly on the edge of the six yard box but her shot was blocked by Hirao. Ireland continued to press for the remaining minutes of the game and Rianna Jarrett almost grabbed a sensational goal but her header from a Megan Campbell throw went just over the bar in what was the last action of the game.
Republic of Ireland:
Grace Moloney, Ciara O'Brien, Megan Campbell, Jessica Gleeson, Jennifer Byrne, Ciara Grant, Aileen Gilroy, Dora Gorman (C), Denise O'Sullivan, Siobhán Killeen, Stacie Donnelly.
Zoe Boyd, Rianna Jarrett (on for Gilroy, 70 mins), Tanya Kennedy (on for Donnelly, 89 mins), Kerry Glynn, Amanda Budden, Claire Shine, Harriet Scott (on for Killeen, 89 mins), Rebecca Kearney, Jillian Maloney, Emma Hansberry.
Eri Hirao (C), Naoka Wada, Ayu Nakada, Hikaru Naomoto, Yoko Tanaka, Haruna Kamashima, Tomoko Kawashima, Haruka Hamada, Hikari Takagi, Chika Kato, Kumi Yokoyama.
Serina Kashimoto, Mami Kanazawa, Yume Nagasawa, Mai Kyokawa, Mina Tanaka, Arisa Mochizuki, Yuka Honda, Ami Goto, Hikari Nagashima, Isayo Mita
Referee: Michelle Pye (Canada)