Historic draw for Vera Pauw's Ireland as they hold Sweden in World Cup qualifier

Cork duo Megan Connolly and Denise O'Sullivan play their part in a huge defensive effort by Ireland against the world's number two ranked side
Historic draw for Vera Pauw's Ireland as they hold Sweden in World Cup qualifier

Katie McCabe of Republic of Ireland celebrates with teammate Denise O'Sullivan, left, after scoring their side's first goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifying match between Sweden and Republic of Ireland at Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg, Sweden. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sweden 1 

Republic of Ireland 1.

CORK'S Megan Connolly and Denise O’Sullivan helped the Republic of Ireland secure a monumental point in their bid to qualify for the 2023 World Cup as they held Sweden to a 1-1 draw at the Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg on Tuesday evening.

A late Kosovare Asllani finish ensured Sweden got the result that they needed to reach the finals in Australia and New Zealand, cancelling out Katie McCabe’s first-half strike - created by O’Sullivan - in the process but Ireland will be happy as they are now only two points behind Finland with a game in hand in the fight for the playoff spot.

Connolly won her 35th senior cap and she started in defense rather than her usual position higher up the pitch while O'Sullivan claimied her 93rd senior cap in her familiar midfield role.

The Swedes, who are currently second in the FIFA World Rankings, and their fans were ready to party but despite dominating for the majority of the first half with 75% of the possession, they struggled to break through a resilient Ireland rear-guard.

They only created two meaningful goal-scoring opportunities but Lina Hurtig headed a Jonna Andersson cross from the left flank over the bar from a few yards out - under pressure from Connolly - before Asllani rattled the crossbar when released in the box by an excellent Hanna Bennison through ball.

The Girls in Green’s impressive performances in recent months have seen them move up one place to 30th in the latest rankings and they had chances either side of Swedish efforts but O’Sullivan couldn’t connect properly with McCabe’s cross on six minutes before the latter saw a strike saved from distance But shortly before the interval, Ireland snatched the lead as after a clever short free-kick O’Sullivan eventually teed up McCabe whose shot from the edge of the penalty area deflected past the rooted goalkeeper.

The hosts’ domination continued after the restart and Ireland needed their keeper Courtney Brosnan to produce a stunning save and tip substitute Fridolina Rolfo’s thunderous drive onto her bar.

Both Stina Blackstenius and Hurtig missed good openings as the second period wore on before they finally levelled terms on 79 minutes when Asllani drilled sub Olivia Schough’s clever layoff into the far bottom-right corner but they couldn’t find a winner as Ireland hung on to a huge point.

SWEDEN: H Lindahl; A Ilestedt, L Sembrant, M Eriksson; H Glas, H Bennison, C Seger, J Andersson; K Asllani, L Hurtig, S Blackstenius.

Subs: F Rolfo for L Sembrant (56), D Angeldal for H Bennison (56), O Schough for L Hurtig (78), N Bjorn for H Glas (78).

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: C Brosnan; J Finn, N Fahey, Louise Quinn, M Connolly, C Mustaki; Lucy Quinn, R Littlejohn, D O’Sullivan, K McCabe; H Payne.

Subs: L Kiernan for H Payne (74).

Referee: Iuliana Demetrescu (Romania).

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