Ireland 1 Slovakia 1
After the Helsinki high, Tallaght torpor for a poor Ireland who dropped points to Slovakia, meaning they temporarily slump to fourth in World Cup qualifying ahead of winless Georgia’s visit next Tuesday.
Martina Šurnovská bundled home a shock lead goal for the lively visitors two minutes after the break but captain Katie McCabe levelled with a slick left-footer in the 65th minute.
Both sides had chances to win but Slovakia’s point is worth much more to them; how costly the dropped points are for Ireland will be revealed next year.
Group leaders Sweden did them a favour in the other pool game by inflicting a second successive defeat on the Finns.
Ireland started well but Slovakia were arguably the better outfit on the night, more coherent and composed in most things they attempted; Ireland were not.
Katie McCabe’s driven cross just evaded Louise Quinn in an initially bright start; the captain also provoked a booking from Andrea Horváthová but the pattern was not established as the visitors shrugged off their status as outsiders.
Slovakian danger woman Mária Mikolajová wriggled free on the right to work a position for a decent left-footed drive, but Courtney Brosnan was comfortably behind the game’s first shot on target in the tenth minute.
Dominika Škorvánková tested Brosnan again in the 38th minute and this seemed to spark the Irish into life, Aine O’Gorman and Lucy Quinn rattling in dangerous crosses as green bodies flooded forward.
From the subsequent corner, a trademark double act – Katie McCabe’s corner and Louise Quinn’s head – forced the first save of the night from Maria Korenčiová.
Payne was sent through on the left by a delicious pass from Denise O’Sullivan but she ballooned her shot over impetuously.
Two minutes after the break, Slovakia stunned the Irish.
Turning over possession on the left, the ball was swept wide to the right and the roving Brugge player Ľudmila Maťavková.
Savannah McCarthy had been dragged to her right and couldn’t cover the cross and, with only one white shirt to aim at, Maťavková found it with precision, Martina Šurnovská bundling home from no distance with Niamh Fahey caught flat-footed.
Ireland, momentarily stunned, regrouped and produced their best passage of play before the hour, a fine passing pattern resulting in Megan Connolly stinging the hands of the pint-sized Slovak keeper.
Lucy Quinn emerged from a poor display to have a shot deflected over with a sense of last-minute panic already apparent, despite a half-hour's play remaining.
Mercifully, Ireland finally strung together a fine passage of play, deserving of a goal, which captain McCabe drilled home with the consummate ease of a WSL table-topper.
Pauw didn’t immediately chase the winner, opting merely to switch her right-back and Slovakia renewed their interest in seizing a winner.
Bíróová flung herself at a 74th minute corner but Brosnan rescued Ireland once more.
But then the Irish keeper almost imploded, dithering in possession, allowing Žemberyová to have an unimpeded shot; but Louise Quinn miraculously made a diving intervention to save her colleague’s blushes.
And, perhaps, Ireland’s World Cup hopes.
Ireland – Brosnan; Fahey, Louise Quinn, McCarthy; O’Gorman (Littlejohn 70), Finn, O’Sullivan, Connolly, McCabe; Lucy Quinn (Carusa 84), Payne.
Slovakia – Korenčiová; Horváthová, Bíróová, Fischerová, Bartovičová, Vojteková; Škorvánková, Mikolajová, Šurnovská (Žemberyová 65), Hmírová (Lemešová 78) , Maťavková (Panáková 88).
Referee – Jelena Cvetkovic (Serbia)