Spain came to Tallaght this afternoon and showed why they are one of the up and coming teams in women’s football with a fairly comprehensive victory over Ireland.
The final score of 3-0 might have been a little harsh on the home side but there was no denying the gulf in class between the two teams.
In front of a very noisy crowd of 2,763 fans Ireland came into the game under no illusions about the task that faced them in this Euro 2017 qualifier.
From the very first minute Spain dominated the possession and Ireland’s outstanding performer in the first half was goalkeeper and captain Emma Byrne who was making her 100th appearance for her country.
In spite of her brilliance between the sticks she could do nothing to prevent the visitors taking the lead. Her defenders twice failed to clear the ball out of the Irish penalty area and eventually the ball fell to Vicky Losada who took a touch before finishing neatly in the bottom left of the Ireland goal.
Ireland looked to be heading in at the break only a goal behind until they conceded a harsh penalty when fullback Sophie Perry was adjudged to have fouled Amanda Sampedro in the area. I thought the Spanish player made the most of the challenge and there didn’t seem to be much contact between herself and Perry.
Jennifer Hermoso duly stepped up to send Byrne the wrong way from the penalty and more or less put Spain out of sight a minute before half time.
Ireland showed good spirit though in the second half and almost pulled a goal back on the hour mark when Sophie Perry popped up inside the Spanish penalty area. The ball dropped to her around eight yards out and she seemed to have done enough to halve the deficit until Spanish goalkeeper Gallardo pulled off a fine save to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Stephanie Roche got a great reception when she was introduced with ten minutes to go but Spain meant business and nobody was going to steal their thunder today. They finished the game on a high to score a third right at the death and condemn the Girls in Green to a slightly undeserved three goal defeat.
This defeat does not sound the death knell for Ireland’s qualification hopes however as Spain will probably win the group at a canter by beating all the other sides as well.
Ireland will learn from this and move on knowing they still have a great chance of getting to the finals in The Netherlands in 2017.