Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team were defeated by Cymru (Wales) in their first game of 2023 in Cardiff this evening.
Wales bossed the international friendly at the Cardiff City Stadium for long spells and eventually ran out 4-1 winners in front of just over 6800 spectators, including a small band of GAWA.
Lauren Wade scored an excellent goal in the second half for Northern Ireland, who looked nervy in the first half but improved after the break.
They had to soak up some early pressure, with Sarah McFadden in particular making some important interventions, including a superb last ditch tackle to thwart Jess Fishlock.
Northern Ireland goalkeeper Shannon Turner, who was making her debut, showed some fancy footwork to clear the danger as Welsh winger Ceri Holland raced towards goal.
Wales took the lead in the 16th minute. Rachel Rowe sped down the right and crossed the ball into the area where Fishlock was on hand to knock the ball into the top corner.
A minute later Rhiannon Roberts shot straight at Turner as Wales continued to press, while a Hannah Cain toe poke was easily gathered by Turner.
Wales went two up in the 25th minute. Sophie Ingle clipped the ball over the Northern Ireland defence to Fishlock and she fed Angharad James, who applied the close range finish.
A third goal for the home side quickly followed. This time Roberts supplied the cross from the right flank and Cain guided the ball into the net from six yards out.
Half of the Northern Ireland team are still in pre-season training ahead of this year’s NIFL Women’s Premiership and it showed in the opening half hour. The Welsh looked much sharper.
Northern Ireland had a couple of chances as the half wore on though. Captain Marissa Callaghan had a drive blocked and McFadden curled a shot over the top.
Interim Northern Ireland boss Andy Waterworth chose Ellie Mason to lead the attack and she worked hard, although she had to feed off scraps.
After the interval the visitors began to enjoy more possession and began to express themselves. A Caragh Hamilton shot drifted wide of the upright and substitute Chloe McCarron’s long range shot sailed over the top.
Rowe grabbed goal number four for Wales just after the hour mark. Turner could only manage to get her fingertips to a cross from Holland and Rowe pounced to score with a controlled finish.
On 73 minutes Wade pulled a goal back with a superb finish. She robbed Roberts down the left and slotted the ball into the bottom corner from an acute angle.
The game petered out after that and there was very little in the way of goalmouth action, although Northern Ireland competed well across the pitch.
Wade launched a free-kick just before the final whistle, however it was comfortably gathered in by Welsh keeper Olivia Clark.
Northern Ireland: Shannon Turner, Rebecca McKenna, Demi Vance, Sarah McFadden, Kelsie Burrows, Nadene Caldwell, Caragh Hamilton, Marissa Callaghan (captain), Ellie Mason, Megan Bell, Lauren Wade.
Substitutes: (used) Chloe McCarron, Rebecca Holloway, Emily Wilson, Rachel Furness, Laura Rafferty, Kerry Beattie; (unused) Maddy Harvey-Clifford (GK), Lilie Woods (GK), Caitlin McGuinness, Kirsty McGuinness, Joely Andrews, Abbie Magee.
Wales: Olivia Clark, Rhiannon Roberts, Hayley Ladd, Gemma Evans, Esther Morgan, Sophie Ingle (captain), Angharad James, Jess Fishlock, Rachel Rowe, Ceri Holland, Hannah Cain.
Substitutes: Laura O’Sullivan (GK), Safia Middleton-Patel, Chloe Williams, Josie Green, Georgia Walters, Elise Hughes, Charlie Estcourt, Ella Powell, Megan Wynne, Alice Griffiths, Anna Filbey, Ffion Morgan.