Ireland draw with China as World Cup preparations begin

Cork's Megan Connolly and Denise O'Sullivan started in the clash in Spain
Ireland draw with China as World Cup preparations begin

Denise O'Sullivan on the ball against China. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland 0 China 0    

THE Republic of Ireland’s countdown to the 2023 Women’s World Cup kicked off with a friendly against China ending in a draw at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador in Spain.

With just under 150 days until their opening game of the tournament against Australia, Vera Pauw named a team featuring debutants and Deborah-Anne De la Harpe and Aoife Mannion. They were put into a group set up in Vera Pauw’s preferred 5-4-1 with Heather Payne acting as the lone striker.

This starting XI also featured Megan Connolly, who was last seen in green during the 1-0 win over Finland last September at Tallaght Stadium.

Megan Connolly on her return. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Megan Connolly on her return. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

All of this tinkering was done to counteract a Chinese team that is ranked 14th in the world rankings and fresh from winning the 2022 edition of the AFC Women's Asian Cup.

None of that mattered once the game kicked off as Vera Pauw sent her team out to control the game, a plan which relied heavily on the presence of Denise O’Sullivan in the centre of the pitch. The midfielder, on her 99th international cap, was the engine as she linked up play and broke up whatever China tried to create.

Her work rate was complimented by a near-perfect start to life by Aoife Mannion in a green jersey. The Manchester United defender knocked away everything thrown her away, and her best bit of work was beating Zhang Xin to the ball and nursing it out of play before she could run into the box.

All of this nearly paid off when Louise Quinn connected with a Katie McCabe corner at the back post, but this came off the crossbar and Xiao Yuyi cleared this for China.

Just as Ireland seemed to take full control of the game, China won their second corner of the game and Zhang Xin’s set piece was dummied by Wang Xiaoxue. This allowed Yao Lingwei to take on the shot and her attempt was picked up at the bottom right corner of the goal by Courtney Brosnan.

Louise Quinn closed out the first half by connecting with a cross from Megan Campbell and her header was plucked out of the air by Xu Huan.

Her defensive abilities were on show after the break when Yao Lingwei intercepted a pass from Megan Campbell. Louise Quinn lunged in to block the shot inside the box and put the ball out for a corner.

She thought her defensive work was rewarded with a goal from a Katie McCabe free-kick, but the referee ruled this out over an infringement on Xu Huan.

Ireland finished the game with a free-kick from distance that Megan Connolly took and the Chinese goalkeeper stopped this with a routine save.

IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan; Deborah-Anne De la Harpe, Aoife Mannion, Louise Quinn, Megan Connolly, Lily Agg, Denise O’Sullivan, Abbie Larkin, Katie McCabe, Heather Payne.

Subs: Aine O’Gorman for Deborah-Anne De la Harpe (h-t), Marissa Sheva for Abbie Larkin (h-t), Ruesha Littlejohn for Lily Agg (h-t), Diane Caldwell for Aoife Mannion (68), Kyra Carusa for Heather Payne (74).

CHINA: Xu Huan; Chen Qiaozhu, Wang Linlin, Wang Xiaoxue, Li Mengwen, Zhang Xin, Zhang Rui, Yao Lingwei, Xiao Yuyi, Wang Shanshan, Lou Hiahui.

Subs: Wu Haiyan for Wang Xiaoxue (71), Maidinai Shadike for Xiao Yuyi (72), Shen Mengyu (90).

Referee: Jason Lee Barcelo (Gibraltar)

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