|One of the greatest superpowers in the world of women's football fell today (Thursday) as the Republic of Ireland women's U17 side came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory against Sweden at the elite qualifying phase of the European Championship in the Crimea, Ukraine. It is the first ever time that an Irish women's team have qualified for a major finals and will now face Germany in the UEFA Championship semi-final in June.|
Sweden took the lead as early as the third minute when Magdalena Ericsson bundled in an early corner but Noel King's side battled hard and they were rewarded with two second half goals from substitute, Rianna Jarrett from Wexford and defender, Megan Campbell from Dublin's St. Francis FC.
Ireland went into the game knowing that only a victory would ensure qualification to the four team finals in June and they got off to the worst possible start after three minutes when Swedish defender, Magdalena Ericsson was on-hand to force home a corner from close range.
The young ‘Girls in Green' responded superbly to the early set-back as they dominated possession in all areas of the field but the strong Swedish defence were quick to clear any danger in the final third, despite the tireless efforts of Stacie Donnelly and Denise O'Sullivan up front. There were a number of worrying moments in the Swedish defence in the first half however as defender, Megan Campbell (pictured below) unleashed her powerful throw-in deep into Sweden's box, time after time.
The Irish midfield pairing of Dora Gorman and Ciara Grant were immense as they bossed their Swedish counterparts for much of the half while both wide-midfielders, Aileen Gilroy and Siobhan Killeen gave their defenders a torrid time with their persistent runs up the flank.
Ireland began the second half with the same intensity as they finished the first and Siobhan Killeen almost grabbed the equaliser when an Aileen Gilroy cross was cleared as far Killeen on the left but her shot went just to the right of the post.
With the introduction of North End United striker, Rianna Jarrett in the 49th minute, the Swedish defence struggled to cope with the imposing attacker and she duly leveled the game in the 58th minute with a well taken penalty. In a well worked move, Aileen Gilroy played a cutting ball to Barrett on the edge of the area and she flicked it to Denise O'Sullivan in the box who was hauled down by Swedish defender, Magdalena Ericsson and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. The Wexford striker stepped up and confidently stroked the ball past Swedish keeper Jessica Höglander to level the scores.
Reading keeper, Grace Moloney who was having an unusually quiet day in between the posts for Ireland was called into action in the 64th minute when Sweden's Jonna Andersson made a surging run down the left and she blasted the ball towards goal but Moloney stood firm and saved the rasping shot with great ease.
The winning goal came one minute later when Ireland quickly turned their defence into attack and as Stacie Donnelly held the ball up at the edge of Sweden's box, she was clumsily knocked by Swedish defender Amanda Ilestedt who was booked in the process. From the resulting free kick, defender, Megan Campbell unleashed a pin-point left-footed shot which nestled into the bottom corner of the net past Höglander to give Ireland the lead.
With fifteen minutes of the game remaining, the Irish maintained their attacking formation throughout with the front-line players of Rianna Jarrett, Denise O'Sullivan, Aileen Gilroy and Siobhan Killeen all cleverly holding up the ball in an attempt to eat into the remaining nail-biting minutes.
Ireland now advance to the UEFA Championship finals which will take place in Nyon, Switzerland from June 22nd -26th. They will face Germany in the semi final with the prize of a UEFA Championship final against the winners of the Netherlands and Spain awaiting. Noel King's side will have an extra incentive at the finals this summer as the top three teams at the tournament will advance to the FIFA Women's U18 World Cup which will take place in Trinidad and Tobago next September.