Helen Ward chalked up her 100th cap as Cymru continued their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign with a narrow 2-1 defeat against France at Parc y Scarlets.
Cymru 1-2 France
FIFA Women's World Cup Qualifying
- Friday, 8 April 2022
- Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Wendie Renard's first-half header and a strike from Marie-Antoinette Katoto in the second period put France in a commanding position with 30 minutes left.
Cymru captain Sophie Ingle reduced the deficit when she fired home from the edge of the area but Le Bleus held out to earn their seventh straight qualifying win and move seven points clear at the top of Group I.
It was a special evening for Ward, who was greeted with a standing ovation by the 4,553 in Llanelli, as she joined Gareth Bale, Loren Dykes, Jess Fishlock, Chris Gunter, Sophie Ingle and Wayne Hennessey in Cymru's 100-cap club.
Gemma Grainger made two changes from the 2-0 defeat against France in their last qualifier in November, with Rachel Rowe and Ceri Holland named in the starting line up in place of the injured Esther Morgan and Kayleigh Green, who missed out through suspension.
Kadidiatou Diani, who netted in the last meeting between the two sides, posed a threat early on and came close to opening the scoring when she fired a low effort at Laura O'Sullivan's near post.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward then had another opportunity to break the deadlock as she got on the end of a neat backheel from Sandie Toletti and flashed an effort marginally wide of the post.
Carrie Jones enjoyed Cymru's first chance in front of goal when she got the better of defender Eve Perisset, cut inside on her right foot and saw her effort saved by Pauline Peyraud-Magnin.
Cymru had caused problems for the French defence in the opening 30 minutes but they fell behind on the half-hour mark after Toletti's corner picked out Renard, who nodded beyond O'Sullivan.
France enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the first half and began the second period in the same vein. Gemma Evans did well to prevent Katoto from getting on the end of an inviting cross from Perisset, but the striker found France's second three minutes later.
O'Sullivan looked to get the ball to safety but saw her attempted clearance blocked by Katoto, who was able to stroke the ball home into an empty net.
Down the opposite end, Cymru felt they should have had a penalty when Jess Fishlock weaved past two defenders and went down in the area, but referee Jana Adamkova awarded Grainger's side a free kick. Fishlock stepped up to take the set-piece but saw her effort sail over the crossbar.
But Cymru finally managed to halve the deficit with 19 minutes left on the clock through Ingle. After winning the hosts a corner, Rowe's delivery caused problems in the penalty area and the ball eventually fell to the Cymru skipper, whose low shot found its way past Peyraud-Magnin with the aid of a deflection.
Evans thought she had levelled for Grainger's side level three minutes after the restart when she headed home, but the offside flag cut short the celebrations and denied Cymru, who were unable to find a late equalisier.