BELGIUM 1 (De Caigny 14) IRELAND 0
Ireland suffered another narrow defeat to a higher-ranked side tonight as Belgium held on for victory in the second friendly of the double-header in Brussels.
As promised, Ireland manager Vera Pauw overhauled her side by making six changes to the line-up which started Thursday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Denmark.
Courtney Brosnan replaced Grace Moloney in goal, Alli Murphy made her debut at right-wing back, while Claire Walsh and Claire O’Riordan came into central defence. Ruesha Littlejohn recovered from a knock to harness midfield, with American-born striker Kyra Carusa deployed in attack for her first start.
Belgium’s selection featured six players from league leaders Anderlecht and their main striker Tine De Caigny was presented with the Uefa Golden Boot beforehand by men’s manager Roberto Martinez. Her haul of 12 goals was the most scored by a player in the European qualification campaign.
It took just 14 minutes De Caigny to display that potency. The 23-year-old timed her run perfectly from Laura De Neve’s inswinging free-kick to sneak in between Megan Connolly and goalkeeper Brosnan to volley home from six yards.
Once again, slack defending from a cross cost Ireland the game but they created a lot more in search of an equaliser than the Danish defeat. Diane Caldwell glanced a header wide before Heather Payne tested Justien Odeurs with a shot seven minutes before the break.
Straight after the restart, captain Katie McCabe had a penalty appeal rejected following a challenge from Kassandra Missipo while, at the other end, De Caigny somehow sliced a sitter wide at the back post.
Pauw shook things up by introducing substitutes, with Emily Whelan impressive again off the bench. She was involved in Ireland’s best chance to equalise with 13 minutes left, drawing a foul from Lenie Onzia on the edge of the box, from which Littlejohn’s rising drive was tipped by Odeurs.
Louise Quinn also had an impact off the bench by being thrust into an attacking role. With four minutes left, her flick on allowed fellow sub Rianna Jarrett to attempt a volley that Odeurs turned around the post.
The Brighton striker got another sight of goal in stoppage time from Denise O’Sullivan’s pass, only to scuff her tame effort straight at the relieved goalkeeper.
J Odeurs; L Deloose (S Wijnants 65), L De Neve (L Onzia 20), A Tysiak; F Delacauw (D Vanmechelen 65), K Missipo, J Biesmans, J Vanhaevermaet, J Cayman; T Wullaert, T De Caigny.
C Brosnan; A Murphy (O’Gorman 46), C O’Riordan, D Caldwell, C Walsh (L Quinn 82), K McCabe; D O’Sullivan, M Connolly (H Nolan 74), R Littlejohn (R Jarrett 82); H Payne (E Whelan 67), K Carusa (E Molloy 67).
Lizzy Van Der Helm (Netherlands).