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Tuesday 09 Apr 2024
Northern Ireland Women secure fine win over Bosnia

Northern Ireland got their UEFA Women’s Euro 2025 qualification campaign back on track with a fine 3-1 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina this afternoon.

Following their disappointing 0-0 draw with Malta in Belfast on Friday, the senior women’s team were determined to bounce back against the Bosnians.

After a flat first half in sweltering conditions they sprang to life after the break and goals from Lauren Wade, Megan Bell and Simone Magill helped to secure the victory in League B Group 3.

Coach Stuart McLaren took charge of the team after manager Tanya Oxtoby was unable to travel to Bosnia due to illness. However, the manager picked the team and she made three changes from the Malta game. Bell, Emily Wilson and Keri Halliday, making her first start, replaced Marissa Callaghan, Caragh Hamilton and Joely Andrews.

The Bosnians, who lost 3-0 away to Portugal in their opening group game on Friday, got off to a bright start at the Football Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Training Centre in Zenica.

After just two minutes Maja Jelcic got on the end of a cross from Marija Milinkovic. She flicked the ball towards goal but Northern Ireland keeper Jackie Burns managed to make the save just inside the six-yard box.

On 13 minutes Bell delivered a free-kick to the back post where Nadene Caldwell headed the ball across the face of goal towards striker Magill, however she failed to connect with it properly and Bosnian keeper Envera Hasanbegovic eventually managed to smother the ball.

Milinkovic shot straight at Burns in the 26th minute, however two minutes later the keeper produced a good save to keep out a shot from Emina Ekic after Halliday had fired a shot well over the top.

Minela Gacanica missed the target before Burns raced off her line to clear as Ekic threatened again.

Very few chances were created in the first half, however it was a different story after the interval.

Northern Ireland took the lead in the 54th minute. A quick free-kick from captain Laura Rafferty found Wade down the left flank. She then played a one-two with Keri Halliday before tucking the ball home superbly with the outside of her boot from 12 yards.

The lead did not last long though. Just two minutes later Gacanica sped down the wing and pulled the ball back to the onrushing Milinkovic and she found the net from six yards.

On 60 minutes Northern Ireland restored their lead. Megan Bell nicked the ball off Bosnia defender Melisa Hasanbegovic and ran forward into the area before smashing the ball into the top of the net from nine yards. It was a lovely finish.

Magill linked well with Halliday and prodded home her fellow striker’s cross, however Magill’s ‘goal’ was ruled out as she strayed offside in the build-up.

Gacanica had a shot blocked before Aleksic’s free-kick was comfortably saved by Burns. Demi Vance fired in a shot which deflected off Magill and rolled towards Hasanbegovic.

But the hard-working Magill would not be denied as Northern Ireland, who played with a much better tempo in the second half, extended their lead on 68 minutes.

Substitute Casey Howe had only been on the field for two minutes when she fed the ball to Magill inside the area and the striker drilled the ball into the bottom corner. It was another neat finish.

Howe had an effort saved as Northern Ireland went in search of a fourth goal, while Burns kept out an effort from Aleksic.

Midfielder Brenna McPartlan entered the fray late on to earn her second Northern Ireland cap. Her first came in 2017.

It was a great second half performance from third seeds Northern Ireland against the second seeds in the group and they thoroughly deserved the win.

Next up for Northern Ireland is a double header against the top seeds, Portugal. They will take on the Portuguese in Leiria on 31 May before the return game in Northern Ireland on 4 June (venue TBC).

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Envera Hasanbegovic, Ena Sabanagic, Gloria Sliskovic, Melisa Hasanbegovic, Amela Krso, Marija Aleksic, Marija Milinkovic, Aida Hadzic, Emina Ekic, Maja Jelcic, Minela Gacanica.

Substitutes: Nikolina Todoric (GK), Jelena Gvozderac (GK), Emma Veletanlic, Sofija Krajsumovic, Una Rankic, Merjema Medic, Sydney Japic, Alma Krajnic, Selma Pajazetovic, Chloe Japic, Elma Smajic, Elma Husic.

Northern Ireland: Jackie Burns, Rebecca McKenna, Nadene Caldwell, Laura Rafferty (captain), Chloe McCarron, Demi Vance, Lauren Wade, Megan Bell, Emily Wilson, Keri Halliday, Simone Magill.

Substitutes: (used) Casey Howe, Rachel Dugdale, Joely Andrews, Brenna McPartlan; (unused) Lauren Perry, Maddy Harvey-Clifford, Rachel McLaren, Marissa Callaghan, Rebecca Holloway, Caragh Hamilton, Louise McDaniel, Abbie Magee.