O'Sullivan and Connolly impress but Ireland fall to defeat to Belgium

American-born Kyra Carusa qualifies through her grandparents who hail from Cork and Laois and made her first start
O'Sullivan and Connolly impress but Ireland fall to defeat to Belgium

Denise O'Sullivan of Republic of Ireland in action against Janice Cayman, left, and Lenie Onzia of Belgium. Picture: David Catry/Sportsfile

Belgium 1 Republic of Ireland 0

ANOTHER positive performance by the Republic of Ireland Women but ultimately they fell to their second 1-0 friendly defeat in four days as they were beaten by Belgium at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Sunday evening.

Tina De Caigny’s smart finish early in the first half was enough to separate the sides as Vera Pauw’s squad again learned some valuable lessons as their attention now turns to the draw for the 2023 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on April 30.

Belgium are currently 17th in the world rankings and have also qualified for the 2022 Euros so the Irish, who are ranked 31st, knew they were facing a tough opponent.

Cork's Denise O’Sullivan and Megan Connolly, who were winning their 82nd and 27th senior caps respectively, started in midfield while American-born Kyra Carusa - she qualifies through her grandparents who hail from Cork and Laois - was making her first-ever start.

Ireland's Megan Connolly. Picture: INPHO/Patrick Smets
Ireland's Megan Connolly. Picture: INPHO/Patrick Smets

Ireland’s pressing restricted their opponents to few goalscoring opportunities throughout the first period but the Belgians would take the lead in the 14th minute with their first sight at goal.

Laura De Neve’s free-kick from the right picked out the run of Tina De Caigny, who escaped her marker Connolly, and she coolly slotted the ball past the onrushing keeper Courtney Brosnan.

They almost doubled their advantage midway through the half following a sweeping, attacking move.

Kassandra Missipo’s neat pass found Tessa Wulaert, and she quickly released the overlapping Janice Cayman inside the penalty area but the Lyon forward’s low cross was cut out by Brosnan.

The visitors threatened to level terms shortly before the interval but after being found by an incisive through ball from O’Sullivan, Heather Payne cut onto her left and drilled a powerful strike straight at the keeper.

The Republic took that momentum into the second 45 and they felt they should have had a penalty when Katie McCabe, who was winning her 50th cap, went down in the box but the referee waved away the appeals.

They needed a sensational last-ditch block from Connolly to deny Wullaert while De Caigny soon scuffed her captain’s cross wide from a couple of yards before she twice tested Brosnan at her near stick after 60 and 70 minutes.

Ireland finished strongly and they were thrice denied an equaliser by Justien Odeurs with the keeper making excellent saves to stop Ruesha Littlejohn’s free and two tame efforts from Rianna Jarrett.

BELGIUM: Justien Odeurs, Laura Deloose, Laura De Neve, Amber Tysiak, Janice Cayman, Kassandra Missipo, Julie Biesmans, Justine Vanhaevermaet, Feli Delacauw, Tina De Caigny, Tessa Wulaert.

Subs: Lenie Onzia (20), Vanmechelen (65), Wijnants (65).

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan; Claire O’Riordan, Dianne Caldwell, Claire Walsh; Alli Murphy, Megan Connolly, Denise O’Sullivan, Ruesha Littlejohn, Katie McCabe; Heather Payne, Kyra Carusa.

Subs: Aine O’Gorman (h-t), Ellen Molloy (67), Emily Whelan (67), Hayley Nolan (74), Louise Quinn (82), Rianna Jarrett (82).

Referee: Lizzy Van Der Helm (Netherlands).

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