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Tuesday 09 Apr 2024
Women’s futsal team shine against Belgium

The Northern Ireland senior women’s futsal team registered their best win to date when they defeated Belgium in a friendly.

The women’s team faced the Belgians in two challenge matches at Newry Leisure Centre over the weekend.

Belgium, ranked 12th in Europe, won the first game 5-1, however Northern Ireland turned on the style on matchday two and registered a superb 4-1 win.

In the first encounter it was an end to end affair in the first half.

Northern Ireland took the lead thanks to a clever backheel from Omagh’s Sasha Funston. But two minutes before half-time a mistake at the back allowed Belgium to equalise and make it even at the break.

Belgium came flying out of the traps in the second half and three quickfire goals left Northern Ireland reeling.

The home team steadied the ship but couldn’t fashion a goal to get back into the game.

The Belgian goalkeeper made fine saves from Beth McKay, Jess Rea and Jane McMaster.

Belgium then utilised a fly keeper and grabbed another goal before the end to make it 5-1.

The score was harsh on the Northern Ireland team who matched Belgium for most of the game, however it also showed how futsal at international level can turn in a short space of time.

When the teams played a couple of friendlies in Brussels a few months back the Belgians won 7-2 and 5-1.

But on matchday two this time Northern Ireland were determined to show they have improved since then – and they certainly did that.

They got off to a great start by taking the lead through a lovely strike from Amber Dempster on the break.

The match ebbed and flowed with Northern Ireland keeper Alice Harkness-Armstrong making some fine saves to prevent a Belgian equaliser.

Five minutes before the break debutant Jane McMaster drove forward and fired a shot into the corner past the Belgian keeper to make it 2-0.

The home team expected a big reaction from the visitors and they had to defend resolutely before Sarah Crooks drove forward and fired the ball goalwards, and her effort deflected off a Belgian defender to extend Northern Ireland’s lead.

Belgium went all out attack to try to find a way back into the game, utilising the fly keeper again to give them a numerical advantage.

Northern Ireland defended heroically and Sam Kelly pounced on a Belgian mistake to send the ball into the empty net.

For the last 10 minutes it was backs to the wall to repel a Belgian onslaught, although Claire Shaw hit the post with a long range effort.

Again the home keeper made some incredible saves but Belgium did manage a consolation goal.

However, that certainly did not the take the shine off what was the Northern Ireland women’s team’s best ever result on a futsal court.

Northern Ireland squad: goalkeepers – Alice Harkness-Armstrong, Laura Devine; fixes – Jane McMaster, Jessica Rea, Sarah Crooks; pivots – Amber Dempster, Claire Shaw, Rachel McConnell; wingers – Aimee-Lee Peachey, Megan Weatherall, Sam Kelly, Louise Devlin, Sasha Funston, Beth McKay, Chloe Doak, Ellen McCartney.