Republic of Ireland 9
A play-off spot to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup is now in the Republic of Ireland’s grasp after they comprehensively defeated Georgia 9-0 at the Tengiz Burjanadze Stadium in Gori on Monday night with the help of goals from Cork's Megan Connolly and Denise O'Sullivan.
A superb performance from Connolly in particular, which saw the midfielder claim a goal, three assists, and the player of the match award, helped Ireland secure the three points which sends them second in Group A with just two games remaining.
But it was the home side, who are yet to score a goal in these qualifiers, that had the first shot on target although captain Khatia Tchkonia couldn’t get enough power on her strike, allowing goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan to make an easy save.
That effort came against the run of play though and the Girls in Green soon grabbed the opening goal that their dominance deserved with just four minutes on the clock.
Niamh Fahey’s strong tackle broke kindly to Heather Payne and after she quickly picked out O’Sullivan in space, the Knocknahenny native teed up Katie McCabe who rifled a sensational strike into the roof of the net from just inside the penalty area.
Fahey doubled their lead on 14 minutes and Connolly provided what is known as the ‘pre-assist’ these days as her corner was knocked down by Louise Quinn into the path of the Liverpool defender, who turned the ball home with what appeared to be her hand.
Nonetheless, the goal stood and it was her first senior goal for her country on her 104th appearance.
And just five minutes later the Irish were celebrating again as they made it 3-0 from another set-piece with Connolly applying the finishing touch to McCabe’s delivery to the back post.
It almost seemed to be too easy for Ireland as complacency soon set in and they became sloppy and slow in possession with too many hopeful crosses being swung into the opposition’s box.
And it was from another corner that saw them make it 4-0 and this time the roles were reversed as Connolly’s short pass found McCabe, who earlier rattled the crossbar, and despite slipping the Arsenal attacker’s strike still sailed over the keeper, and into the far corner.
Ireland’s 11-0 victory against Georgia in their last meeting is the biggest ever victory by any Irish team (Men’s or Women’s) in a competitive fixture and it was also 4-0 at the interval on that night.
They continued to dominate proceedings in the second period and either side of substitute Lily Agg having a goal disallowed, Louise Quinn twice headed the ball into the top right corner, the first of those was created by Connolly.
Another incredible pass from Connolly allowed McCabe to volley in number seven for her treble before Abbie Larkin headed home and then O’Sullivan completed the scoring from close-range in injury time.
GEORGIA: Tatia Gabunia, Tamara Kvelidze, Mariam Kalandadze, Natia Danelia, Nino Chkhartishvili, Khatia Tchkonia, Nino Pasikashvili, Mariam Danelia, Lela Chichinadze, Teona Bakradze, Ana Cheminava.
Subs: Irina Khaburdzania for Bakradze (ht), Nino Gujabidze for Mariam Danelia (61), Megi Gotsiridze for Chichinadze (83), Ia Alelishvili for Khaburdzania (89).
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan, Niamh Fahey, Diane Caldwell, Louise Quinn, Katie McCabe, Ruesha Littlejohn, Megan Connolly, Heather Payne, Amber Barrett, Denise O’Sullivan, Jessica Ziu.
Subs: Lucy Quinn for Payne (61), Lily Agg for Littlejohn (61), Abbie Larkin for Barrett (61).
Referee: Meliz Özçiğdem (Turkey).