Sunday 15 September 2019

O'Flanagan pounces to lift Ireland

Ireland's Anna O'Flanagan. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ireland's Anna O'Flanagan. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Findlater

Anna O'Flanagan popped up with a crucial late goal to all but confirm Ireland's place in Europe's top tier for 2021 with a 2-1 win over Belgium in Antwerp.

She scored with 80 seconds left on the clock, ghosting in behind the last defender to volley home against the world number nine side.

After the devastation of missing out on a first Euro semi-final, it does put Ireland in pole position to equal their best ever finish - fifth - in the continental competition.

Beth Barr continued her hot streak in front of goal when she made it 1-0 in the 11th minute from a Shirley McCay cross.

Chances to double the advantage slipped by, however, and Ambre Ballenghien's equaliser with 16 minutes to go made for a tense final quarter.

Nikki Evans' yellow card added to the atmosphere but Ireland finished the stronger and got their winner with McCay once again laying on the pass.

It was a stunning ball into the centre from the left sideline, a perfectly struck reverse-stick ball into the middle that Nicci Daly helped on its way.

The win lifts Ireland to six points in the relegation group. Barring a bizarre Sunday morning series, Sean Dancer's side will stay up but a draw or better against Russia will mean a fifth place spot.

The Irish men, meanwhile, are under huge pressure. They have to hope Scotland and England do not play out a mutually beneficial draw in the opening game of the day to leave the door ajar by the time Ireland meet Wales (2.45, Irish time).

Irish Independent

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