Northern Ireland Women’s U19s bowed out of the Euros elite round with a disappointing defeat to Ukraine.
Following gritty performances against eventual group winners Norway and Denmark, Alfie Wylie’s side were confident of putting points on the board against the Ukrainians, however it was not to be.
Northern Ireland created several chances against Ukraine, who were heavily defeated by both the Norwegians and the Danes in their opening two games in the four-team 2019 WU19 Euros elite round mini tournament in Norway, but they conceded twice in the closing stages and eventually lost out by four goals to two.
Northern Ireland almost opened the scoring after a minute at the AKA Arena in Honefoss. Alex Collighan produced a fine shot which dropped inches over the Ukraine crossbar.
Down the other end minutes later Northern Ireland goalkeeper Lauren Perry did well to keep out a Kozlova snapshot and then produced a great save from a Koleshchuk free-kick.
In the 10th minute Alfie Wylie’s side opened the scoring. Collighan and Leyla McFarland combined well down the left and found Louise McDaniel free in the box and she calmly slotted the ball past the Ukraine keeper.
Perry saved a Semenyuk attempt before Caitlyn Hamilton steered a shot wide and then Perry was called into action again to keep out a Bilokur drive.
As the half drew to a close McDaniel almost grabbed her second of the game but was denied by Ukraine keeper Valchuk, who pushed away her shot.
In injury time Perry blocked a Bilokur shot before Rebecca McKenna had an attempt kept out by Valchuk.
Ukraine drew level just after the re-start when Kupiak fed the ball to Ukraine captain Nadia Kunina, who slipped the ball past Perry.
Abbie Magee was off target with a shot on 50 minutes but four minutes later Northern Ireland regained the lead when Collighan collected a pass from McDaniel just inside the Ukraine half and ran 30 yards before slipping the ball past the Ukraine keeper.
In the 58th minute Kozlova pounced to make it 2-2 and Ukraine then had a couple of further efforts on goal before Hamilton and Collighan spurned opportunities.
On 80 minutes Perry blocked a Kotiash shot and then, as Northern Ireland began to tire, both Bilokur and Semenyuk steered shots wide of the target.
Ukraine were now in control and it was no great surprise when Kozlova popped up to score her second goal of the game to make it 3-2.
Ukraine continued to push forward in added time and Bilokur hit the woodwork before Kozlova delivered a corner into the box and Kunina got to it first to slam the ball home.
The final action of the game saw McDaniel fire in a shot but Valchuk was equal to it.
It was a disappointing end to the tournament for Wylie’s team, however there is no doubt his young squad - 14 of them will still be eligible for WU19 Euros qualifiers next year - gained valuable experience during the trip to Norway.
Northern Ireland WU19s v Ukraine: Lauren Perry (GK), Yasmin White, Naomi Donnan (Kaia Deane 90’), Abbie Magee, Kelsie Burrows, Caitlyn Hamilton, Rebecca McKenna, Megan Bell (c), Leyla McFarland, Louise McDaniel, Alexandra Collighan. Unused subs: Maddie Clifford, Khloe Cooper, Bronagh McGuinness, Ruby McFarland, Leah McDaid, Leah McGonagle, Ebony Leckey, Kaitlyn Canavan.