Northern Ireland left it late to claim a share of the points at Rodney Parade as captain Ashley Hutton scored the equaliser deep into injury-time to earn the visitors a 2-2 draw.
CYMRU 2-2 Northern Ireland
UEFA Women's EURO 2021 Qualifying
- Tuesday, 3 September 2019
- Rodney Parade, Newport
The two teams went into this UEFA Women's EURO 2021 Group C qualifier on the back of two very contrasting results the week before. While a hat-trick from Natasha Harding inspired Wales to start the campaign in style with a resounding 6-0 victory away to the Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland were comprehensively beaten by the same scoreline against group favourites Norway.
Manager Jayne Ludlow kept faith with the same starting line-up at Rodney Parade as a crowd of 1676 welcomed the players onto the field. Meanwhile, opposite number Kenny Shiels made three changes to the team that suffered the heavy defeat in Belfast, with Lauren Wade, Megan Ball and goalkeeper Emma Higgins included in the starting line-up.
As both sides asked questions in the early exchanges, it was the visitors that took the lead after 11 minutes. Megan Ball's corner was headed on by Sarah McFadden, and Simone Magill made no mistake from close range to score past Laura O'Sullivan.
Wales reacted positively to the early setback as Natasha Harding and Angharad James had shots from outside the area blocked. The home side continued to pressure the Irish defence, and were rewarded on 22 minutes when James' shot was deflected into the corner of the net, leaving left Higgins wrong-footed.
It remained an even affair, as despite Wales enjoying better periods of possession, Bell and Magill both had chances for the visitors as they looked to regain the advantage, with both assisted by the creative play of Rachel Furness. However, Wales remained a threat at the other end of the field, with the delivery of Gemma Evans and the pace of Kayleigh Green forcing Northern Ireland to defend in numbers before half-time.
Wales came out with purpose for the second half and immediately looked a threat going forward with Rhiannon Roberts playing further up the field. However, Northern Ireland certainly believed there was something in the game for them, with Furness becoming increasingly influential as the two sides continued to test each other in equal measure.
On 69 minutes, Wales finally took the lead after a period of sustained pressure, as Green towered above the Irish defence to head home a superb cross from Roberts on the right. With the crowd behind them, Wales continued to defend against the increasing pressure from the visitors. As the match headed into injury-time, if seemed Wales had done enough to claim maximum points, but there was a further twist to come.
In the final seconds of the game, Demi Vance swung a free-kick into the Welsh area, and it was captain Ashley Hutton who would salvage a point for Northern Ireland as the home side failed to effectively clear their lines. The final whistle followed the restart, to leave Jayne Ludlow a frustrated figure on the sidelines having watched her side surrender their valuable lead.
Wales: O'Sullivan (GK), Dykes, Evans, Ingle (c), Roberts, Hughes, E. Jones (Wynne - 66), James, K. Green, Harding, Ladd. Subs: Skinner (GK), Clark (GK), Ward, J. Green, Estcourt, Nolan, Woodham, Filbey, C. Jones, Powell. Goals: James (22), K. Green (69).
Northern Ireland: Higgins (GK), Newborough (McCarron - 88), Vance, McFadden, Nelson, Hutton (c), Magill, Furness, Wade, Holdaway (McKenna - 57), Bell (Callaghan - 60). Subs: Burns (GK), Flaherty (GK), Johnson, Montgomery, Holloway, White. Goals: Magill (11), Hutton (90+4).