Wales Women Under-17s kicked off a double header against Northern Ireland with a deserved victory in Ystrad Mynach.
Wales 2-1 Northern Ireland
Goals from Grace Horrell and substitute Alice Jones saw the Under-17s secure a deserved victory over Northern Ireland.
Jayne Ludlow’s side got off to a fast start and could have gone ahead within four minutes as Horrell saw two efforts well saved by Lauren Perry in the visitors’ goal.
But the hosts – and Horrell – weren’t to be denied as the winger opened the scoring on six minutes when her corner from the left evaded everyone and went in off the far post.
Wales continued their early dominance as Emily Jones went close on two occasions, before Northern Ireland had their first sight of goal when Casey Howe’s low strike was well held by Deanna Lewis.
The visitors came close to levelling the score on the stroke of half-time, however, as Leah McEvoy’s cross from the right was tipped onto the bar by Lewis.
After the restart, the home side continued their dominance and were almost rewarded with a second goal as Kelsie Burrows’ interception came back off the post as the Northern Ireland skipper was spared an own goal.
But Wales did double their lead on 52 minutes as substitute Alice Jones rose highest to head home Grace Horrell’s corner to give the hosts a 2-0 advantage.
It could have been three shortly after as Elise Hughes came close with a spectacular turn and volley from just inside the box that flew inches wide of the upright.
Despite the pressure, the visitors did halve the deficit with just under ten minutes remaining as Megan Bell’s deep free kick found the head of Burrows, who beat goalkeeper Deanna Lewis to the ball as the Northern Ireland skipper headed home.
And they almost grabbed an equaliser as the game ticked into added time, Bell’s free kick finding an unmarked Emily Wilson as she stabbed the ball goalwards but it was tipped around the post by Lewis.
After that escape, Wales held firm to claim the victory ahead of Friday’s second meeting between the two sides.
WALES: Deanna Lewis, Ellie Sanford (Jasmine Simpson, ht), Alice Griffiths, Tamsyn Sibanda (Hayley Hoare, 68), Lucia Carpanini (Amina Vine, ht), Phoebe Hampson (Chloe Tiley, 57), Elise Hughes, Grace Horrell, Cerys Jones (Alice Jones, ht), Emily Jones, Meesha Dudley-Jones.
SUBS: Grace Burke, Jasmine Simpson, Charlie Taylor, Hayley Hoare, Chloe Tiley, Amina Vine, Alice Jones.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Lauren Perry, Caitlin Rae, Kelsie Burrows, Beth Chalmers, Megan Bell, Leah McEvoy (Zoe Kilpatrick, 71), Aimee-Lee Peachey (Abbie Robinson, 18), Emily Wilson, Rebecca McKenna, Casey Howe (Sadie Craig, 67), Ally Canning.
SUBS: Jade McPhee, Zoe Kilpatrick, Sadie Craig, Abbie Robinson, Nadine Hunter, Joely Andrews, Toni Finnegan, Olivia Wright, Jessica Young.