Ireland advance to World Cup quarter-final with 3-0 win over Ghana
The Republic of Ireland women's U17 side continued their historic World Cup journey with a 3-0 victory over Ghana in their final FIFA World Cup, Group D match. That result, coupled with Brazil's 2-0 victory over Canada in the same group, means that the young ‘Girls in Green' advance to the quarter-finals of the competition as group winners and will now meet Japan in the quarter-final on Friday (September 17) at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Trinidad.
In what was a bruising encounter, goals from Megan Campbell, Stacie Donnelly and Aileen Gilroy secured the three precious points they required to secure their progression to the next round.
Photo: Aileen Gilroy scores Ireland's third
With just five minutes played, Ireland were ahead courtesy of a sublime free-kick from dead-ball specialist, Megan Campbell. The lively Denise O'Sullivan was hauled down on the left-wing and Campbell was on-hand to send her left-footed free-kick over the stranded keeper, Otoo and into the top corner of the net.
The front pairing of Stacie Donnelly and Denise O'Sullivan were causing the Ghanaian defence all sorts of problems early on. After 19 minutes, Reading striker, Donnelly won possession on the edge of Ghana's box and she laid the ball off for Wilton's Denise O'Sullivan whose shot from 15 yards out went just over the bar.
Ghana's first attempt on goal came in the 23rd minute when Yiadom let-fly from 30 yards but her shot was comfortably saved by the ever-reliable Grace Moloney in goal.
Mid-way through the first half, Ireland were enjoying large periods of possession in key areas of the field in a patient approach to their opponents. Siobhán Killeen, who had scored in the two previous games was dangerous once again and she came close in the 28th minute when she skipped past her defender with ease on the left and from 15 yards powered her effort across goal, only to see the ball go agonisingly over the bar.
Ireland doubled their advantage in the 36th minute through Stacie Donnelly when Denise O'Sullivan caused mayhem in the Ghanaian box after she chased down her defender, Antwi in the right corner. Ghana defender, Antwi played it to her keeper, Otoo who returned to the ball to Antwi and under pressure from Denise O'Sullivan, the Ghana defender, helped it on to Stacie Donnelly who stroked the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards.
In the closing stages of the first half, Ireland were in complete control but they almost allowed Ghana back into the game in the 42nd minute when Aileen Gilroy brought down Ghana's captain, Sesu in the box and the referee made no hesitation with awarding a penalty. Ghana midfielder, Mary Essiful put the resulting spot-kick to the left of Grace Moloney's post, much to the relief of the Irish, who went in at the break with a two goal lead.
Ireland started the second-half strongly and came close early on through Denise O'Sullivan who was once again chasing down loose back-passes from the defence to the goalkeeper while Megan Campbell forced Otoo into a finger-tip save from a corner in the 58th minute.
In a frantic period to the game, with both sides playing free-flowing attacking football, Irish defender, Jennifer Byrne came close from a Megan Campbell throw in the 63rd minute while seconds later, Ghana's Sumala's effort was comfortably saved at the other end by Moloney.
Two minutes later, a wicked shot from Okyere from outside the Irish box was tipped around the post by the influential Moloney and from the resulting corner, Stacie Donnelly was on hand to clear a goal-bound effort off the line. Okyere thought she had pulled one back in the 75th minute when she challenged Moloney in the Irish box but the referee made no hesitation and ruled the goal out for fouling the Reading keeper.
Ireland wrapped up the win in the 77th minute with a wonder strike from Aileen Gilroy from nearly 30 yards out on the right wing. A pin-point ball from Jennifer Byrne found Gilroy in space and her first-time shot gave Otoo no chance as the ball nestled in the back of the net. The Killala midfielder was left shaken following her strike after a late tackle from a Ghanaian defender as she left the field to be replaced by Emma Hansberry minutes later.
Ireland finished the game strongly and held on for a historic victory which sees them top Group D ahead of Brazil, Canada and Ghana and now face the highly rated Japan at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Trinidad on Friday, September 17. Kick-off is 12.00am (Irish time)
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 Donnelly, 69 mins), Tanya Kennedy, Kerry Glynn, Amanda Budden, Claire Shine, Harriet Scott (on for Killeen, 75 mins), Rebecca Kearney, Jillian Maloney, Emma Hansberry (on for Gilroy 86 mins).
Ghana: Otoo, Yiadom, Addai, Coleman, Sumaila, Okyere, Sesu (C)Danso, Essiful, Antwi, Abdul-Rahman.
Substitutes: Simpson, Adams, Djabaah, Okyere, Cudjoe, Antwi, Mailk-Jebdon, Asante, Kolli, Issah.
Referee: Estela Alvarez