Stephanie Roche

An injury time goal from substitute Stephanie Roche gave the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team a well-deserved victory over Slovakia in their penultimate World Cup qualifier this afternoon in Senec.

On a rain sodden pitch, the Irish girls created 20 chances during the game and hit the crossbar three times through Julie Ann Russell twice and Denise O’Sullivan, before Roche was slipped through in the second minute of injury time and she drilled a low shot to the far corner.

This win, coupled with Germany’s 4-1 victory over Russia, means that Ireland go into Wednesday’s final qualifier away to the Germans with a chance of taking second place in Group 1. The side have also extended their unbeaten run to four games and have now gone 407 minutes without conceding a goal.

Sue Ronan’s starting XI showed three changes from the side which beat Slovenia 2-0 in Tallaght last month with Shannon Smyth, Siobhan Killeen and Ruesha Littlejohn coming in for Diane Caldwell, Stephanie Roche and Fiona O’Sullivan.

Ireland started strongly and after five minutes Julie-Ann Russell saw her long range shot come off the crossbar with the keeper well beaten. Five minutes later Siobhan Killen sent Ruesha Littlejohn clear but her shot was turned around the post by Maria Korenciova.

Then, on 18 minutes, Denise O’Sullivan had a dipping shot from the edge of the box which bounced off the top off the bar.

However, Ireland had a let off on 27 minutes when Dana Feckova beat the Irish offside trap and rounded the advancing Emma Byrne only for Louise Quinn to get back and clear her goalbound shot off the line. It was the beginning of a jittery period for the Irish as Monika Matysova smashed a shot wide from the corner and a few minutes later Feckova again went close.

Having survived that jittery spell, Ireland finished the half strongly with Niamh Fahey heading wide from an Áine O’Gorman free-kick.

Stephanie Roche was introduced for Siobhan Killeen at half-time and Ireland went on to totally dominate the second half and create numerous chances.

Denise O’Sullivan hooked the ball over the goalkeeper after 50 minutes but it just fell the wrong side of the crossbar and 10 minutes later she saw her shot saved by keeper when she latched onto a rebound as Julie-Ann Russell’s free-kick came off the crossbar.

Stephanie Roche, Denise O’Sullivan and Louise Quinn all went very close to breaking the deadlock before Ireland finally found the net in the second of the five minutes added on for injury-time with a superbly worked goal.

It all began on the left with Karen Duggan who found Megan Campbell and she in turn picked out Shannon Smyth who then fed Dora Gorman and the UCD Waves midfielder split the Slovak defence with a precise pass that sent Stephanie Roche clear. The 25-year-old showed great composure in drilling a left footed shot past the advancing goalkeeper to the corner of the net.

Manager Sue Ronan admitted that she thought the goal would never come but felt her side fully deserved the win.

“The conditions were very tough. The pitch was heavy and that made it difficult but the girls worked very hard from the first whistle and created plenty of chances. Late goals have been a hallmark of our campaign and I was particularly pleased that in injury time we were still composed enough to string together four excellent passes to split the defence and put Stephanie through and she took her goal very well,” said Ronan.

Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (Arsenal); Áine O’Gorman (UCD Waves), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal), Karen Duggan (UCD Waves); Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad). Dora Gorman (UCD Waves), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City); Siobhan Killeen (Raheny United), Ruesha Littlejohn (Sandviken), Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves). Subs: Stephanie Roche (ASPTT Albi) for Killeen (46mins). Megan Campbell (Florida State University) for Fahey (70) Fiona O’Sullivan (Notts County) for D O’Sullivan (81). Unused subs: Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United). Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion), Meabh de Burca (Galway WFC), Ciara Grant (UCD Waves).

Slovakia: Korenčiová (GK), Haršányová, Matysová (C), Vojteková, Bíróová, Cerovská (Kolenová 74), Ondrušová, Fatulová (Klechová 52), Šušková, Bartovičová, Fecková

Referee Simona Ghisletta (Switzerland).

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