Republic of Ireland 2.
GOALS from Cork’s Megan Connolly and Denise O’Sullivan helped the Republic of Ireland secure an enormous three points in their bid to reach the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup as they defeated Finland 2-1 in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki on Tuesday.
Finland, ranked eight places higher in the World rankings, came into this game having won both their Group A games but this result now gives Ireland the advantage in their bid to claim second, and with it, the playoff spot with Sweden likely to win the group.
Vera Pauw stuck with the same eleven that started their 1-0 defeat to the Swedes in their opening qualification game in Tallaght last Thursday with Connolly winning her 31st cap while O’Sullivan recovered from an elbow injury to claim her 87th cap.
Ireland started brightly and they deservedly took the lead in the 10th minute when Connolly scored her second-ever goal for Ireland at senior level.
The former College Corinthians playmaker took responsibility for a free-kick just outside the penalty area and curled a superb shot over the wall, against the underside of the bar, and into the back of the net as the keeper couldn’t get a strong enough hand to it.
The Finnish, roared on by their vocal support of over 6,000, soon grew into the contest but their best openings came from set-pieces with Linda Sallstrom nodding wide before Natalia Kuikka looped her header onto the roof of the net.
But they would grab an equaliser at the beginning of the second period although it came with a hint of controversy as Katie McCabe was forced off the pitch to receive treatment having suffered a hefty challenge.
Finland made full use of the extra space down that right-wing as Tuija Hyyrynen raced to the end-line before pulling the ball back to Adelina Engman who drilled her half volley home.
But the Girls in Green responded perfectly to that setback as they retook the lead less than four minutes later thanks to O’Sullivan.
Jamie Finn released Heather Payne down the right and her clipped cross was spilled by the Finland keeper allowing the Knocknaheeny native to head the ball across the line.
McCabe could have made the result more comfortable but she couldn’t find the net with either of her thunderous hits.
But it mattered little as O’Sullivan and Connolly continued to put in a huge shift during a nervy finale to ensure the Irish earned a significant victory.
FINLAND: Tinja-Rikka Korpela; Tuija Hyyrynen, Anna Westerlund, Natalia Kuikka, Emma Koivisto; Adelina Engman, Emmi Alanen, Evelina Summanen, Ria Oling; Sanna Franssi, Linda Sallstrom.
Subs: Essi Sainio for Oling (86), Amanda Rantanen for Sallstrom (89).
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan; Aine O’Gorman, Niamh Fahey, Louise Quinn, Savannah McCarthy, Katie McCabe; Megan Connolly, Jamie Finn, Denise O’Sullivan; Lucy Quinn, Heather Payne.
Subs: Rianna Jarrett for Lucy Quinn (75).
Referee: Alexandra Collin (France).