Ireland's World Cup qualification hopes dealt a major blow

By Stephen Leonard 

THE Republic of Ireland Women's team dropped to third place in Group C of their FIFA 2019 World Cup qualification campaign after they suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the hands of Norway in Tallaght Stadium yesterday evening.

It was Lisa-Marie Utland who inflicted the damage with a goal either side of the half-time recess that saw the Scandinavians leap-frog their hosts into second place.

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Republic of Ireland Women's team in Tallaght Stadium (pic: Echo photographer Paddy Barrett)

Ireland will have gone in at halftime grateful they were just a goal down.

Norway proved dangerous with their crisp midfield play that had the Ireland rearguard on the back foot while Guro Reiten's delivery from the dead ball also injected panic on more than one occasion.

Indeed it was from her corner kick that Utland headed home to put the visitors a goal up on 20 minutes.

They almost doubled their advantage when Reiten's effort forced a finger-tip save from goalkeeper Marie Hourihan that diverted the ball on to the crossbar.

And just before the break Isabell Herlovsen drew gasps from the Irish faithful when her header from a Reiten free travelled fractionally too high.

They went close again soon after the interval when Frida Maanum forced Hourihan to push her effort over the bar.

From the resulting corner, Kilnamanagh's Katie McCabe set Leanne Kiernan free to run the length of the pitch, but her effort lacked the power needed to trouble goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth.

While Ireland were full of more endeavour in the second half, they rarely troubled the Norwegian defence primarily as a result of Kiernan being too isolated up front whenever she received the ball.

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Ireland's Katie McCabe and Norway's Caroline Graham Hansen (pic: Echo photographer Paddy Barrett) 

Denise O'Sullivan worked hard to try and support her while Peamount United's Amber Barrett was introduced in an effort to give the homeside more presence in attack.

It worked to an extend, but Norway continued to carve out the more clear cut openings.

Reiten struck narrowly wide before seeing another effort canon back off the upright while  Herlovsen was denied by Hourihan.

Ireland pressed more in the closing 10 minutes but Karen Duggan's strike over the bar in stoppage time was the closest they came to opening their account.

A much-improved performance will be needed if Ireland are to regain the ground lost when they travel to Norway for the return match on Tuesday.

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