Green Army end productive 2017 on low key note

Women’s International Test Series
Friday: Spain 5 (C Cano 2, B Bonastre, M Garcia, M Serrahima) Ireland 2 (N Carroll, S Torrans)
Ireland endured a tough first half against Spain as a 4-0 half-time deficit put them on the back foot. Emma Buckley was kept busy by the Spanish, ranked 11th in the world, and was called on inside the opening minutes to clear a shot from Julia Pons.

Moments later, Maria Lopez sent a high reverse goalward only for Buckley to tip it over the bar. The first goal came in the 11th minute when Carmen Cano slipped her marker and found herself free in the circle to calmly tap the ball around the oncoming Buckley.

The Green Army struggled to retain possession and two goals in two minutes’ saw Spain take a commanding lead. Berta Bonastre scored at the near post following some confusion in the circle and Maialen Garcia scored the rebound from a corner routine.

The Irish women’s squad in Spain last weekend

Lizzie Colvin, captaining the side, was leading any Irish charge alongside Anna O’Flanagan and a nicely weighted pass saw Naomi Carroll in on goal but her shot was saved by Maialen Garcia. The half was rounded out by a fourth goal for Spain as Hannah McLoughlin was turned over by Belen Iglesias, who then slipped the ball to Mariona Serrahima to fire into the goal.

Ireland began to find some passes and O’Flanagan’s determined run into the circle drew a strong save from Garcia but there was nobody on hand to get to the rebound before it was cleared.

Spain were hunting for more goals and Erin Getty did well to make an outstretched block to prevent a ball flying goalward. The Green Army recorded their first corner in the 40th minute but Chloe Brown’s drag was parried away.

Cano got her second as she was fastest to the rebound and smashed the ball home from close range in the 49th minute. McLoughlin very nearly got Ireland on the scoresheet as she darted along the left baseline but again Garcia was alert to the danger.

The goal eventually came as Duke spun her marker and found an outstretched Naomi Carroll to push past the keeper. 2 minutes later as the game wound down, Sarah Torrans doubled her side’s tally as she fired a rebound into the net from a PC routine.

Ireland: E Buckley, C Brown, N Evans, E Getty, E Tice, L Colvin (captain), S Torrans, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, R Barry, L McGuire
Subs: G O’Flanagan, J McMaster, Y O’Byrne, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, D Duke, A Meeke,

Saturday: Belgium 3 (P Leclef, E Puvrez, A Gerniers) Ireland 1 (S Torrans)
A very tight opening half saw Ireland nearly take an early lead as Nikki Evans drew a strong high save from Elena Sotgiu inside the opening two minutes.

The Green Army were pressing high and putting the Belgians under a lot of pressure, a tactic that paid off as Ireland tilted the possession stats in their favour.

But the experienced Belgian side were able to break at pace and a composed Lena Tice was forced to clear up a potentially dangerous two on one situation.

Pauline Leclef gave her side the lead in the dying seconds of the opening quarter as her initial corner shot was blocked but the follow up sweep found its way through a crowded circle into the goal.

A minute into the second quarter, they doubled their lead as a pacey attack down the right found Emma Puvrez free at the back post for the tap in. But Ireland were creating their own chances – two corner routines went awry – while Evans was distributing the ball and charging into the circle at will.

Ireland’s deserved goal came from a piece of solo brilliance by Sarah Torrans as she broke into the circle and fired into the bottom corner from an acute angle, beating Aisling D’Hooghe before the half time break.

Grace O’Flanagan was called upon far more in the second half and made several very good saves. The pick of the bunch came when a loose ball across the Irish circle was intercepted, forcing O’Flanagan to spring from her goal and slide at the shooting striker.

Evans had the best of the Irish chances as she picked up the ball unmarked in the circle but D’Hooghe did enough to put her off and the shot fizzled wide.

Alix Gerniers put the game to bed for Belgium in the 53rd minute when she showcased her 3D skills to skip into the circle and shoot on her reverse. The teams exchanged further corners but both keepers made saves to keep the score at 3-1.

Ireland: G O’Flanagan, C Brown, N Evans, E Getty, E Tice, S Torrans, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke (captain), A Meeke, L McGuire
Subs: E Buckley, Y O’Byrne, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Colvin, E Russell, R Barry

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