Release Date: 13/09/2012
Author: Sam Woodside
NORTHERN Ireland kicked-off their second game in the UEFA European Women's Under 17 Championship 2012/13 Qualifying Round mini tournament against Italy on Wednesday at Mill Meadow, Castledawson, in front of the many fans who had turned out to cheer on Alison Nicholl's side.
The Under 17 girls were looking to build upon an impressive draw against England at Solitude on Monday – and that they certainly did. A great save by Jackie Burns from an early attack was a sign that her goal may be more in jeopardy than Monday night. Another great run from Aimee Mackin led to her being brought down at the edge of the box – free kick for Northern Ireland in dangerous territory.
All early attacks were flooding in from the right wing, evidence that Mackin was picking up where she left off at Solitude on Monday.
As time passed in the first half, Italy had several shots from distances but they caused little trouble for Jackie Burns in the Northern Ireland goal.
As the home side continued to press, a quick free kick from Moya Feehan released the ever impressive Mackin down the wing. With Italy coming off an impressive 5-0 demolition of Israel, everyone expected end-to-end stuff, yet it was Northern Ireland who looked most dangerous as they pushed to find the breakthrough first.
Meanwhile Chloe McCarron was continually unlocking the Italian back four with well timed passes.
Inevitably, the breakthrough came minutes later, a slick through ball from McCarron released Feehan on goal, after a tussle with the keeper who failed to collect on the first attempt, she calmly switched to her left foot and sent her shot goal-ward, clipping the crossbar and in. A well deserved goal and Northern Ireland 1-0 up.
The second half started at a much different tone to the first. Just looking at the Italian's desire to get forward was evidence of the nature of their half-time team talk.
They almost capitalised from an early corner, a free header from a deep run sailing inches over the bar.
As Italy won a free kick from the right, you could almost sense an Italian onslaught was imminent. The usually impressive Burns misjudging the free kick's flight.
Northern Ireland made several changes and started to get slowly back into the game. Although with time running out for Italy, they needed a goal, and fast.
As the fourth official raised the board displaying three minutes, Northern Ireland were well and truly pegged in their own half as Italy desperately looked for the equaliser. Solid defensive play and smart clearances saw out the remaining minutes.
As the final whistle came, Northern Ireland couldn't hide their joy of overcoming a strong Italian side, as the players celebrated on the pitch, there were equally animated celebrations on the touchline.
A sublime performance and a deserved three points. Final score: Northern Ireland 1-0 Italy
Northern Ireland have taken four points from two games and now turn their attention to Israel. The girls have a great chance to win their group on Saturday and will no doubt have their sights on the next stage of the tournament.
Alison Nicholl’s side will take on Israel on Saturday at The Showgrounds, Coleraine; kick-off: 7.30pm.
Entry is free to the game and a big crowd will be instrumental in helping the team as they look to secure all three points in this final game.
So make sure you come along to the Showgrounds in Coleraine this weekend and support the Northern Ireland girls!
Northern Ireland number 9 Moya Feehan celebrates her winning goal against Italy with her team mates.
Pic: Gary Hancock
Northern Ireland U17 Women's manager Alison Nicholl with Goal Hero Moya Feehan
Pic: Gary Hancock
Victorious Northern Ireland celebrate after beating tournament favourites Italy 1-0 at Mill Meadow
Pic: Gary Hancock
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