Narrow defeat in Norway ends Ireland's Women's World Cup qualification hopes
Norway 1 Ireland 0
Ireland’s women World Cup dream died with a game remaining this evening in Stavanger as Caroline Graham-Hansen's first-half penalty proved the difference in Norway's 1-0 win.
Colin Bell was forced into two changes from the side beaten 2-0 by the same opposition on Friday, with the suspended Diane Caldwell and injured Niamh Fahey dropping out.
Megan Connolly, the US-based midfielder slotted into midfield while Claire O’Riordan, who operates as a striker for her club Wexford, got her first competitive start alongside Louise Quinn in central defence. Quinn showed supreme bravery in donning a protective mask after suffering a broken nose five days ago.
As expected, Norway bossed the early exchanges, funnelling their attacks primarily through right-winger Caroline Graham-Hansen, whom Áine O’Gorman had the task of shackling on her 100th cap.
The Wolfsburg star was the first to translate the pressure into a clearcut chance by forcing Marie Hourihan to turn her 17th-minute rising shot around the post.
From the resulting corner, Isabell Herlovsen was left unmarked to connect but her header rebounded of the crossbar with captain Maren Mjelde unable to sweep the rebound home.
Having started to settle into the game, Ireland’s inability to clear their lines cost them on 25 minutes.
Graham-Hansen capitalised by raiding into the right side of the penalty area, drawing a mistimed challenge from O’Riordan, which Swiss referee Esther Staubli didn’t hesitate in punishing.
Although Hourihan went the right way, Graham-Hansen’s penalty into the bottom corner had too much power.
Bell was pleased with Ireland’s response, utilising the pace of 19-year-old Kiernan as their main ploy at retrieving the situation. After sweeping a shot from distance wide, she continued to test the Norwegian defence, which her teammates made space from. Connolly, who volleyed wide as the interval approached, also had valid claims for a penalty rebuffed when Mjelde caught her inside the box. The hosts were also relieved to see O’Riordan glance her free header off-target from McCabe’s corner.
Ireland continued to push for an equaliser after the break, Denise O’Sullivan hooking a volley over the crossbar and Connolly unable to keep her close-range header down.
In his final attempt at salvaging something from the contest, Bell threw on Amber Barrett and Rianna Jarrett from the bench for the final seven minutes.
Jarrett’s flick-on landed at the feet of O’Riordan yet she couldn’t get the ball out from under her feet to work Hjelmseth.
There would be one final chance to level in stoppage time when McCabe wriggled free to shoot on the turn but this time Ingrid Hjelmseth had to be at her best to stoop down low and keep the effort out, ending Ireland's hope of qualifying for the World Cup in the process.
NORWAY: I Hjelmseth (Stabaek); I Moe Wold (Lillestrom), M Mjelde (Chelsea), M Thorisdottir (Chelsea), E Haavi (Lillestrom); C Graham Hansen (Wolfsburg), F Maanum (Lingkoping), I Syrstad Engen (Lillestrom), G Reiten (Lillestrom); L-M Utland (FC Rosengård), I Herlovsen (Valerenga).
Subs: E Thorsnes (Utah Royals) for Utland (61 mins), V Boe Rise (Arna-Bjonar) for Maanum (64 mins), S Skinnes Hansen (Lillestrom) for Herlovsen (90+2 mins).
IRELAND: M Hourihan (Manchester City); S Perry-Campbell (Brighton & Hove Albion), C O’Riordan (Wexford), L Quinn (Arsenal), Á O’Gorman (Peamount Utd); K Duggan (Peamount Utd); T Toland (Maiden City); D O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), M Connolly (Florida State Seminoles); K McCabe (Arsenal); L Kiernan (Shelbourne).
Subs: A Barrett (Peamount Utd) and R Jarrett (Wexford) for Connolly and Kiernan (both 83 mins), I Atkinson (Shelbourne) for O’Gorman (89 mins).
Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)