Amber Barrett is the hero as Ireland keep their World Cup dream alive with a win against Slovakia
Ireland 2 Slovakia 1
SUBSTITUTE Amber Barrett kept Ireland’s dream alive of reaching next year’s women's World Cup by firing in the winner four minutes from the end of today’s qualifier at Tallaght Stadium.
The plucky Slovakians looked like they’d grabbed their first point of the campaign when Ireland goalkeeper Marie Hourihan gifted them an equaliser just two minutes after Leanne Kiernan had given the Girls in Green a 69th-minute lead.
However, Donegal native Barrett – dropped to the bench – took just eight minutes after being introduced to pounce for Ireland’s second which sends them into top spot ahead of Holland, who face Northern Ireland later.
With Ireland facing a potentially vital dropped two points, the striker showed a cool head to latch onto a long ball by player of the match Karen Duggan and beat Maria Korenclova from 10 yards.
It sparked triumphant celebrations from the 3,521 spectators in Tallaght, with the match-winner picking up a yellow card for taking her jersey off.
Ireland boss Colin Bell will forgive the 21-year-old for indulging the moment as his team now face the European Champions on Tuesday at the same venue knowing they can consolidate their place at the summit with victory.
It has been a frustrating afternoon for Ireland on their first home qualifier having racked up two wins and a draw in their opening three games, all away from home.
Captain Katie McCabe and Kiernan both went close in the first half but it took Diane Caldwell’s incisive pass on 69 minutes to send Kieran clear and she did the rest by blasting home inside the near post.
From jubilation came desolation. Jana Vojtekova’s cross looked innocuous but Hourihan allowed the ball skim of her knee and divert into the net.
A late rally proved beneficial, however, with Barrett’s first goal of the campaign keeping Ireland on the road to France and a first major tournament qualification.
IRELAND: M Hourihan; S Perry-Campbell, L Quinn, D Caldwell, K Duggan; N Fahey, M Connolly; R Littlejohn (A Barrett 78), D O'Sullivan, K McCabe; L Kiernan.
SLOVAKIA: M Korenclova; L Suskova, P Fischerova, D Bartovicova, J Vojtekova; P Hmirova, A Biroova, M Mikolajova (L Harsanyova 89), V Susolova, M Surnovska (K Fabova 83); D Skorvankova.
Referee: Simona Ghisletta (SUI)