Wales manager Jayne Ludlow says Wales matched a top-level team in Cesena as preparation for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 qualification campaign continues.
Ludlow opted for a mix of youth and experience, with Emma Jones winning her first cap and Cori Williams getting her first start for Wales, while Hayley Ladd earned her 50th cap. The game was scheduled to kick off at 6pm local time but it was bought forward two hours and played under increasing snowfall.
Italy, sat ten places above Wales in the FIFA rankings, started on the front foot and came close to scoring in the opening ten minutes as Williams cleared a goal mouth scramble off the line.
Italy broke the deadlock after fifteen minutes as the Welsh defence struggled to deal with a well delivered from the right-hand side which was met by the head of striker Ilaria Mauro. However, as the half progressed Wales settled into the game and created several chances of their own. Some well worked play by Elise Hughes found Jess Fishlock through on goal but goalkeeper Rosalia Pipitone made no issue of clearing up. Fishlock came close again minutes later as her well struck volley from outside the box was parried away by the Azzurre keeper.
With Wales looking like ending the half on the front foot, the Italians struck a cruel blow. As Wales conceded possession in their own half, Mauro made no mistake in capitalising with an impressive dinked finish over Laura O’Sullivan from the edge of the box.
With the score line open, Ludlow encouraged the side to play more attacking football in the second half and the attacking intent became obvious as Wales played some impressive two touch football in the Azzurre half and kept Pipitone busy again.
We were disappointed in how the two goals went in but they were in areas we can work on. The things we worked on in training came out in the game and we competed fantastically well against a top level team today.
Ludlow also gave game time for several squad members as Grace Horrell won her first senior cap and goalkeeper Claire Skinner was given game time for the first time in two years. Wales’ best chance of the match came in the final minute of the match. A well delivered free-kick by the experienced Fishlock was headed across the box by captain Sophie Ingle and Cori Williams was unlucky to see her strike parried away by Pipitone as the Italian made sure she kept a clean sheet.
1. L O'Sullivan (12. C Skinner 76'), 3. G Evans, 4. S Ingle (c), 13. C Williams, 14. H Ladd, 5. R Roberts (2. L Dykes 76'), 8. A James, 10. J Fishlock, 11. N Harding (23. G Davies 76'), 15. E Hughes (22. G Horrell 84'), 9. E Jones (7. H Ward 63')
Subs not used: 6. N Lawrence, 16. K Nolan, 17. C Estcourt, 18. A Filbey, 19. M Wynne, 20. E Powell