Northern Ireland’s Women’s Under-17s registered a dramatic 2-1 win against Luxembourg in a Euro qualifier in Israel today.
With 10 minutes to go the WU17s looked to be down and out, trailing 1-0, however Keri Halliday found some extra energy and had a hand in both goals as Alfie Wylie’s side produced a stirring comeback to secure all three points.
Firstly, Halliday delivered a corner for the equaliser and then she won a penalty which was coolly slotted home. The first goal for the WU17s came on 83 minutes when Mikayla Wildgoose applied the finishing touch, while Aimee Kerr stroked in the spot-kick six minutes later.
The game against Luxembourg was the first of three matches for Northern Ireland in League B Group 1 of the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship 2022 being staged over the next week.
The aim for Northern Ireland in the mini tournament in Israel is to gain promotion to League A for QR1 of the 2022-23 edition of the competition.
And the win against Luxembourg at Israel’s national team complex at Shefayim was a positive first step in that direction.
Luxembourg started brightly, however Northern Ireland soon began to dominate possession.
The first decent chance fell to the girls in green and white. Wildgoose played a long ball in behind the Luxembourg defence and Halliday chased it down before beating a player and providing a cross which a stretching Emily Reid got on the end of, however her effort went just wide of the post.
Sarah Tweedie then had a header saved shortly before Luxembourg went down the other end and scored against the run of play from the penalty spot on 27 minutes.
As Luxembourg winger Caroline Jorge bore down on goal, Northern Ireland keeper Ellie Scott got down well to save at her feet, however Jorge then fell over the keeper’s legs and referee Sofik Torosyan bizarrely pointed to the spot. Luxembourg defender Rachel Kirps slotted in the penalty to make it 1-0.
Northern Ireland continued to press and produced some neat link-up play, however the Luxembourg defence stood firm.
Around the hour mark Wylie’s side had to withstand some concerted pressure from their opponents. Scott pushed away a looping long range free-kick before a goal-line clearance from Aoibhe O’Neill prevented Luxembourg from increasing their lead. And then Scott produced an incredible save to turn a Jorge drive over the top.
However, Northern Ireland dug deep and kept on the front foot. Naomi McLaughlin dragged a shot inches wide of the post when well placed.
As the game wore on Wylie’s side continued to exert pressure and they deservedly levelled through Wildgoose’s header from Halliday’s corner.
The penalty was awarded when Halliday was upended inside the area by Luxembourg keeper Emma Goetz. And Kerr was calmness personified as she scored what turned out to be the winner.
Northern Ireland WU17s will now prepare for their second game in League B Group 1, which is on Sunday against Faroe Islands. It’s also being played at Shefayim with a 10am start (UK time).
Matchday three will see them come up against Israel at the Ramat Gan National Stadium next Wednesday (16 March) when the kick-off time will be 3pm UK time.
Israel defeated Faroe Islands 2-0 in the other group game played today.
Northern Ireland WU17s: Ellie Scott, Aoibhe O’Neill, Mikayla Wildgoose, Sarah Tweedie, Keri Halliday, Abi Sweetlove, Aimee Kerr, Rhyleigh Marks (captain), Naomi McLaughlin, Sophie Gargan, Emily Reid. Substitutes: (used) Olivia Stubbs, Claragh Quigg, Rachel McIntyre; (unused) Erin McAllister (GK), Niamh O’Donnell, Niamh Coyle, Megan Neill, Grace Montgomery, Cerys Madden.
Luxembourg WU17s: Emma Goetz, Joana Barbosa, Rachel Kirps, Ana Barbosa Abreu, Leila Schmit, Charlotte Schmit (captain), Anna Miny, Luisa Oliveira Bras, Caroline Jorge, Barbara Serra, Olivia Konsbruck. Substitutes: Joy Jung (GK), Lena Berscheid, Jeanne Flammang, Yara Dos Santos Pires, Sofia Borruso, Lena Alves, Beatriz Silva Moreira, Ella Schmit, Gloria Diederich.