Anna O’Flanagan’s silky deflection with three minutes from time saw Ireland’s women snatch a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Spain, earning a share of the spoils from their four-match series in Malaga.
Following a 3-1 loss on Saturday, Graham Shaw’s side looked on course to lose the series when they trailed 2-0 on Sunday to goals from Carmen Cano and Lola Riera but they showed character once again.
Game three: Ireland 1 (A Naughton) Spain 3 (M Segu 2, A Magaz)
The Green Army started this fixture with the same intensity that earned them a 2-0 victory on Thursday. Sarah Torrans caused the Spanish defence some trouble from the opening whistle as she forced an error from Maialen Garcia to turn the ball over.
Torrans followed up with a run along the baseline before pulling the pass back to Katie Mullan at the top of the circle who saw her shot fly just over the crossbar.
Torrans, again, wasn’t giving the Spanish defence a moment to find their structure and drew an initial save from Melania Garcia, with Gillian Pinder’s rebound shot forcing another fine clearance from the Spanish goalie.
Emma Buckley made her first save of the encounter as Spain began to settle into the game and build up their possession but it was Ireland who took the lead on the cusp of half time.
The ever-threatening O’Flanagan sent a pin-point cross into the circle for Aisling Naughton to fire into the net to make it 1-0.
Spain’s equaliser arose out of confusion between the umpires as the hosts caught the Irish unawares and Marta Segu took advantage of an out of place defence to draw the game level in the 33rd minute.
O’Flanagan very nearly regained the lead for Ireland as she saw her reverse shot spin past the post before she forced another save from Garcia minutes later with a ball across the face of goal.
But Spain put the game to bed with two goals in five minutes in the final quarter with field goals from Alicia Magaz and a second for Segu to make the final score 3-1.
Ireland: E Buckley, Y O’Byrne, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, E Tice, G Pinder, R Upton, S Torrans, A O’Flanagan (Captain), Z Wilson
Subs: C Cassin, A Naughton, N Carroll, L Colvin, H Matthews, R Barry, L McGuire
Game four: Ireland 3 (A O’Flanagan 2, K Mullan) Spain 2 (C Cano, L Riera)
Ireland came back from two goals down at half-time to beat Spain and secure a share of the four-game series in Malaga.
It was the Green Army who had the first attempt on goal of the afternoon as Anna O’Flanagan won her side a penalty corner in the opening minutes.
Zoe Wilson’s straight strike from the top of the circle was run down and cleared, and from there Spain seized some early momentum. The hosts retained possession and patiently worked their way up to the Irish circle where, in the ninth minute, Carmen Cano gave her team the lead.
The Spanish continued to press high and attempt to put the Irish defence under pressure. Their second goal came courtesy of a stroke from Lola Riera after the initial ball in from the left resulted in a goal mouth scramble.
Grace O’Flanagan was called upon to make two superb saves in quick succession but the Green Army finished the half in control as Lena Tice had Melania Garcia beaten in the Spanish goal but saw her shot ricochet off the post.
The Irish started the second half in the same vein in which they finished the first as a first time pass from Gillian Pinder saw shots come off the post and the crossbar inside the opening 90 seconds.
Less than a minute later and O’Flanagan got Ireland on the score sheet as she finished calmly after Hannah Matthews half-hit shot fell her way, swiping home from mid-circle.
Deirdre Duke drew a strong save from Garcia following great link-up play between Matthews and Katie Mullan to get the ball into the circle. The equaliser came as Mullan made a super step in the press to steal possession 30-metres out, exchanged a pass with Ellen Curran and fired home a great reverse-stick shot.
The teams exchanged penalty corners in the dying minutes of the game with Lizzie Colvin preventing Spain from retaking the lead as she cleared the shot. O’Flanagan secured the Irish victory from the final penalty corner of the tie as Shirley McCay’s shot was sent goal-ward and O’Flanagan‘s deflection took it past Garcia.
A busy year continues for the Green Army as they travel to both Scotland and England next month for more international fixtures.
Ireland: G O’Flanagan, A Naughton, N Evans, K Mullan (Captain), E Tice, G Pinder, L Colvin, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, E Curran
Subs: E Buckley, Y O’Byrne, S McCay, S Torrans, D Duke, A Meeke, L McGuire