For the second time in three days, Wales beat Northern Ireland 3-1 at Ystrad Mynach. Goals from Kayleigh Green, Nadia Lawrence and substitute Hayley Ladd confirmed the victory, but the result was only half the story as Wales dominated for long periods in a very impressive display.
WALES 3 - 1 NORTHERN IRELAND
- Friday 7 April, 2017
- Centre of Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach
Both managers made a couple of changes to their starting line-ups as another large crowd turned out in the Ystrad Mynach sunshine to welcome the two sides onto the field. However, Northern Ireland made a strong start straight from the kick-off, and an early interception from Wales captain Sophie Ingle presented the visitors with a corner that Caragh Milligan could only curl over the bar.
Wales quickly settled into the match, and encouraged by another enthusiastic young crowd, dominated long periods of the opening half. Bronwen Thomas and Hannah Mikes both came close to putting the side ahead before the 15 minute mark but failed to test Emma Higgins in the Irish goal. Natasha Harding also caused problems for the Irish defence, and could have headed her side in front after 25 minutes, but she failed to make the right connection from a fine cross from Miles.
On 29 minutes Wales took a deserved lead through Kayleigh Green as she fired a low effort past Higgins and into the bottom corner of the net. However, Northern Ireland reacted to the setback by pushing forward and quickly equalised when Julie Nelson placed a looping header over Laura O'Sullivan after 33 minutes, much to the frustration of the Wales bench. O'Sullivan then had to be at her best before the break to deny Milligan, but the score remained level at half-time.
Wales went into the second half with the same attacking intention, and immediately went 2-1 ahead through Nadia Lawrence with a neat finish at the near post. The goal dented Northern Ireland's ambitions and Wales dominated proceedings for the remainder of the second half. Emma Higgins had to be at her best in the Irish goal to make a string of fine saves, while the Wales defence remained largely untroubled. Chances for substitute Melissa Fletcher, Green and Harding all followed as Wales controlled the match.
The result was eventually made safe on 80 minutes when substitute Hayley Ladd placed a fine looping effort over Higgins from a corner. Wales pushed for a fourth goal in the final minutes but again found Higgins in fine form. Referee Paula Brady eventually brought proceedings to a close with Wales claiming a well-deserved 3-1 victory to round-off a very constructive week for Jayne Ludlow and her side.
The match followed on from the same scoreline victory on Wednesday, a fixture that also marked Jess Fishlock's 100th international appearance. “It's a really special day,” Fishlock explained to FAWTV after the match. “I think I can enjoy it a little bit more now, the build-up was great, but I still had to focus on the game. But know the game's gone now and I can really sit back and appreciate the day. I'm really excited for myself and really proud. I had loads of family here which pretty much sums up my support system. They're brilliant, they're fantastic. I wouldn't be here without them and they know that and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
With the draw for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers taking place later this month, Fishlock also explained the value of such fixtures. “These games, like the Cyprus Cup, are huge for us,” she added. “They all give us a different game plan to try and deal with things. Dealing with the directness of Northern Ireland and their physicality is different for example to dealing with Hungary in the Cyprus Cup, and you have to adapt to that. In the World Cup qualifiers we will play against different types of teams and you have to know how to play against them. So all these games are crucial right now.”