Senior Women’s International Challenge: Ireland 1 (J O’Halloran) Argentina 4 (M Barrionuevo, C Rebecchi, A Garcia, L Aymar)
Carla Rebecchi provided the star turn for world number ones Argentina as they showed a clean pair of heels to Ireland this evening, inspiring a comfortable victory at Belfield in the first of their two-game series.
Her pace in attack, aided by Jimena Cedres, Daniela Sruoga and Delfina Merino, was too much for an Irish defence short key centre-back Sinead McCarthy was rested, a precaution for a niggle which carried over from last week’s series with Spain.
Nonetheless, there was no shame in the performance for Ireland who fronted up well, showed some good moments up front following the introduction of Chloe Watkins.
Playing at an elevated tempo, indeed, theses fixtures come at a good time for Ireland as they displayed far more intent than their low-key showings against the Spanish.
It was out of necessity in some respects as any hope of hanging tough in defence were blown out of the water when Sruoga won the first of eight Argentine corners in the third minute and Maria Barrionuevo’s deflected drag-flick found its way past Pamela Smithwick. First, Emma Smyth was set free by Emma Clarke down the right, blocked only at the near post by goalkeeper Maria Aladro.
Clarke then found a line to Lisa Jacob, alone in the circle, who turned well but was smothered by Aladro who had quickly left her line. It was Ireland’s best chance of the half, a reasonably open affair with possession about even but Argentina had the aces when it came to breaking through.
With Merino, Sruoga and Rebecchi switching positions at will, they created the space for first time passes down the two wing channels to set up one on one instances from which their speed did the rest.
Merino and Agustina Garcia fired warning shots before Rebecchi added a scintillating solo second, ghosting in from the left wing through three defenders and weaved to the flick spot to roll home in the 35th minute, 2-0 at the break.
Julia O’Halloran pulled one back in chaotic style, soon after the break. Goalkeeper Aladro and Alex Speers both took head injuries in the first wave of attacks when O’Halloran and Aine Connery’s promptings saw the ball squared between the colliding pair.
There was a good shout for a stroke in the middle of it but play continued – though it should have probably been stopped as Speers stayed down in the goal-mouth – but the follow-up attack saw Smyth’s pass evade her and O’Halloran tapped in.
But, in far less controversial circumstances, Rebecchi twice unlocked the Irish defence in a six-minute spell to take the game away from the hosts. She laid up simple finishes for Agustina Garcia and Luciana Aymar to round off victory by the 47th minute.
The result in the bag, Argentina settled back into third gear, controlling the play and providing moments of aggressive beauty. Sofia Maccari’s baseball effort and a couple of corners were the high points but Gene Muller can take a decent amount from the game.
Commenting afterwards, he said: “These games are useful for us as we benefit off their quickness and sharpness. I was quite happy with the interplay of our forwards today but defensively we were average. Overall, I am very happy that we have the opportunity to play these matches.”
Gene Muller’s side play their final pre-European championship tie, playing Argentina again in Belfield at 4pm on Saturday.
Ireland: P Smithwick, M Harvey, C Sargent, E Smyth, E Clarke, A Speers, S McCay, J O’Halloran, A Connery, N Symmons, A O’Flynn
Subs: M Crowley, L Jacob, N Small, C Watkins, L Colvin
Argentina: M Aladro, R Luchette, A Rodriguez Perez, L Aymar, A Garcia, C Rebecchi, D Sruoga, S Maccari, M Scarone, M D’Elia, M Barrionuevo
Subs: D Merino, R Sanchez Moccia, J Cedres, M Cavallero, A Lopez Basavilbaso
Saturday’s fixture: Ireland vs Argentina, 4pm, Belfield