|The Republic of Ireland women's U17 team today secured a 1-1 draw with Poland which ensures that the side will now go into the final group 3 qualifier against Sweden on Thursday, knowing that a victory would guarantee qualification to the UEFA Championship finals to be held in Switzerland this summer.|
Ireland opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a Niamh McLaughlin penalty when Ciara O'Brien was tripped in the Polish box but the stubborn Polish equalised in the 24th minute with a well taken goal from Marta Cichosz.
In a tough and competitive game, Poland had the first chance after only two minutes when a misplaced pass in the Irish defence was intercepted by Nikola Kaletka. The Polish midfielder ran through on goal but Reading's Grace Moloney remained cool under pressure and plucked the ball from the feet of the on-rushing Kaletka to clear the danger.
Irish free-kick specialist, Megan Campbell came close two minutes later when her audacious free-kick from 30 yards went inches to the right of the post as Polish keeper, Bugajska scrambled to cover her angles.
Ireland took the lead in the 11th minute from the penalty spot when defender Ciara O'Brien was hauled down in the box following a clever move with Niamh McLaughlin on the right wing. McLaughlin stepped up and coolly converted the resulting penalty straight down the middle of the goal, sending the keeper the wrong way.
Poland responded well after conceding the early goal and they equalised in the 24th minute with a well taken Marta Cichosz finish. Her teammate Patrycja Królikowska made a darting run through the Irish defence and found herself one-on-one with Irish keeper, Grace Moloney who made a brave save at point blank range. The rebound however found Królikowska at the edge of the box and she lifted the ball over the Irish defence with a fantastic left footed shot to make the score 1-1.
In a tentative opening to the second half, it was Ireland who looked more likely to score. In the 62nd minute, midfielder, Ciara Grant came agonisingly close to taking the lead when her free-kick on the right clipped the top of the crossbar as the goalkeeper looked on helplessly while captain Dora Gorman shot over from 25 yards with a powerful volley five minutes later.
Poland almost took a shock lead in the 70th minute when midfielder Marczak, ran on to an Irish clearance and her left-footed shot was spectacularly tipped over the post by Irish keeper, Grace Moloney to keep the sides level in the final moments.
Noel King's side almost grabbed the winner in the 75th minute when substitute, Aileen Gilroy burst down the right wing and delivered a pin-point cross to Stacie Donnelly who volleyed over from ten yards.
After the final whistle, Republic of Ireland boss, Noel King praised his battling side for getting the result which gives them an excellent chance of progression to the UEFA championship finals, "That result was probably the best result we have had all season, even though we have won all of our previous four games. Poland made it very difficult for us today but in the end, we dug out a very positive result which essentially puts us into a European quarter-final with Sweden on Thursday. We could have won today but with the game hanging in the balance at 1-1, I thought the girls showed great maturity to stick to their game plan and ensure that we go into the final game with a chance of progressing to the final tournament," he said.
In today's other group 3 encounter, Sweden disposed of Ukraine with an impressive 6-0 score line but the Irish manager insisted that the goal difference in the group would not be an issue, "We always knew how strong Sweden would be in this group and we were never going to rely on goal difference getting us through to the finals. We know what we have to do on Thursday to progress, that was never the issue. We will go into the game knowing that a victory will be enough to see us through. This is an impressive result of the girls and they should be proud knowing how close we are to the finals," said King.
Ireland now face Sweden in the final UEFA championship, elite qualifying phase, group 3 game on Thursday (April 15th) at the Krymteplitsa Stadium in Ukraine, knowing that a victory will send them to the UEFA Championship finals in Switzerland this summer
UEFA Women's U17 elite qualifying phase fixtures and results
Saturday, April 10th 2010
Republic of Ireland 3-1 Ukraine
Fiolent Stadium, Simferopol
Tuesday, April 13th 2010
Poland 1-1 Republic of Ireland
Krymteplitsa Stadium, Simferopol
Thursday, April 15th 2010
Republic of Ireland v Sweden
Krymteplitsa Stadium, Simferopol
Kick-off: 16.00 hrs (local time)