Ireland have beaten Romania in their vital UEFA Women’s Championship, Group 2 Qualifier at Richmond Park today.
Goals by Michele O’Brien and Stefanie Curtis sent Ireland on their way to a third win in four games from the campaign so far.
Ireland produced a strong first-half performance to continue their qualifying push for the 2009 European Championships and have now amassed nine points from their four games in Group 2. They are now on course to challenge for qualification.
Ireland are in second place in the group. February’s away tie against Italy takes on special significance now, as both Ireland and the Italians have targeted the runners-up spot to gain entry into the 2009 finals, which will be held in Finland.
Favourites Sweden are widely expected to top the group but second place - and possibly third position - will guarantee a play-off route to the Championships.
Ireland began brightly and Stefanie Curtis, the scorer of Ireland’s two goals in the 2-0 victory over the Romanians in Bucharest last August, headed over in the first minute when she got on the end of a free-kick curled into the penalty area by Marie Curtin.
Noel King’s side were in the ascendancy and they made that dominance count by breaking the deadlock on 18 minutes.
Aine O’Gorman fed a short pass to Michele O’Brien in the inside right position and the striker turned towards goal before floating a 25-yard shot over the reach of Romania goalkeeper Roxana Oprea into the top left corner.
Curtis bagged her third goal in two matches against the Romanians with a sublime finish on 31 minutes.
It was O’Brien who worked the opening by slipping a pass into Curtis’ path on the left-side of the penalty area and she stroked the ball low into the opposite corner.
Ireland then suffered a blow when captain Ciara Grant had to be substituted after incurring a leg injury. Laura Hislop came on and moved to the left side of midfield.
Romania always possessed a threat going forward through the creativity of winger Spanu Florentina and they hit back with a goal five minutes before half-time.
Daniela Simona pounced to convert the rebound after a deep free-kick by Elena Pavel from the right side was pushed onto the crossbar by Irish goalkeeper Emma Byrne and came back perfectly into her path.
Ireland controlled most of the second half and dealt with any threat posed by the visitors. Indeed, they could have stretched their lead after an hour when full-back Marie Curtin unleashed a 30-yard shot which struck the underside of the crossbar.
Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Marie Curtin (Lifford), Alisha Moran (NY Athletic Club), Sharon Boyle (Raheny United), Niamh Fahy (Salthill Devon), Sonya Hughes (Tolka Rovers), Ciara Grant (Arsenal) - captain, Aine O’Gorman (Stella Maris), Stefanie Curtis (Bristol Academy), Michele O’Brien (Qbik), Olivia O’Toole (Raheny United).
Sub: Laura Hislop (Newbridge Predators) for Grant (32 mins)
Romania: R. Oprea, O. Oprea, Pavel, Alexandru, Dragoesou, Alexandra, Simona, Stribela, Laiu, Florentina, Prundaru.
Subs: Cojacaru for Prundaru (53 mins), Illinca for Simona (66 mins), Costas for Alexandru (77 mins).
Referee: Kirsi Savolaninen (Finland).