Northern Ireland Women produced a great display as they defeated Albania Women 4-0 in Tirana this afternoon.
Senior women’s team manager Tanya Oxtoby had urged her players to be more clinical in front of goal before the UEFA Women’s Nations League clash – and they showed a ruthless streak in securing all three points in their penultimate League B Group 1 game.
Back in September, when the girls in green and white defeated the Albanians by a single goal at Seaview, several chances went begging for Northern Ireland.
But that was certainly not the case at Arena Kombetare in the Albanian capital as two goals from Simone Magill and one apiece from Danielle Maxwell and Megan Bell helped them to a comfortable win.
On 10 minutes captain Marissa Callaghan played an excellent pass to Magill. The striker flicked the ball over Albania keeper Viona Rexhepi inside the six-yard area, however the ball was cleared away close to the line by defender Sara Maliqi.
Lauren Wade and Maxwell both fired in crosses which were cleared by the home defence as Northern Ireland enjoyed the bulk of the possession against the deep-lying hosts.
In the 20th minute winger Wade pulled the ball back to midfielder Joely Andrews 10 yards out. She let fly but her effort deflected off Armela Tukaj and dropped over the bar.
Callaghan fired in a shot which also deflected off Tukaj and out for a corner before a dangerous Rebecca McKenna delivery was punched clear by Rexhepi.
Magill steered a header wide as Northern Ireland continued to push forward, while Callaghan swept a cross into the side netting.
Defender Sarah McFadden got on the end of a Demi Vance delivery from a corner but her header looped over the top.
In the 43rd minute Northern Ireland got the goal that they deserved. Wade broke down the left and pulled the ball back to Callaghan. Her shot from six yards hit a defender but Magill was on hand to tuck home the rebound from close range.
Just before the break Callaghan fizzed an effort over the bar, while Laura Rafferty got on the end of a Callaghan cross but her header was comfortably held by Rexhepi.
Magill grabbed her second of the game on 47 minutes. McKenna fed Maxwell down the right and her pinpoint cross was superbly headed into the bottom corner of the net by the forward. It was a tidy finish.
On 53 minutes Albania had their first effort on goal when substitute Fortesa Berisha dragged a shot wide of the target.
In the 58th minute Vance slipped the ball to Wade down the left and she sped forward before pulling the ball back to Maxwell whose well-struck first time shot nestled in the back of the net to make it 3-0.
Rexhepi saved well from Wade as Northern Ireland piled forward. And then Chloe McCarron’s low drive slid past the post.
In the 64th minute Keri Halliday made her senior international debut and six minutes later Rexhepi pushed away a Callaghan header before McCarron’s goal-bound shot was blocked by a defender.
Goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford, making her senior debut for Northern Ireland, was a spectator for most of the game. She was not properly tested until just after the 80th minute when she held on to a Berisha strike.
Substitute Megan Bell grabbed Northern Ireland’s fourth goal on 85 minutes. Vance floated a corner to the back post and Bell’s looping header found the back of the net.
Next up for Oxtoby’s team is their final B1 game against group winners Republic of Ireland at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Tuesday (6pm kick-off).
Albania: Viona Rexhepi, Mikaela Metalla, Lucie Gjini, Matilda Gjergji, Sara Maliqi, Qendresa Krasniqi, Megi Doci (captain), Armela Tukaj, Kristina Maksuti, Ezmiralda Franja, Gresa Berisha.
Substitutes: Antigona Hyska (GK), Arbenita Curraj, Vesa Paqarizi, Fortesa Berisha, Valenita Troka, Maria Bashka, Esi Lufo, Alma Hila.
Northern Ireland: Maddy Harvey-Clifford, Rebecca McKenna, Demi Vance, Sarah McFadden, Laura Rafferty, Joely Andrews, Chloe McCarron, Marissa Callaghan (captain), Simone Magill, Danielle Maxwell, Lauren Wade.
Substitutes: (used) Keri Halliday, Caragh Hamilton, Rebecca Holloway, Megan Bell, Ellie Mason; (unused) Shannon Turner, Rachael Norney, Rachel McLaren, Nadene Caldwell, Emily Wilson, Kerry Beattie, Abbie Magee.