Andrew Dempsey reports from Tallaght Stadium
The Republic of Ireland have made it two wins from two in their EURO 2021 Qualifying campaign thanks to pulsating 3-2 win over Ukraine.
Rianna Jarrett’s first international goal helped see the Girls in Green secure a vital win over the Ukrainians with Natiya Pantsualya’s own-goal proving costly for the visitors.
Vera Pauw’s side took a two-goal lead, thanks to captain Katie McCabe and Jarrett, before being pegged back by Ukraine, but the three points were secured through an unfortunate own-goal in front of a record attendance at Tallaght Stadium for a women’s international.
After an unconvincing home win against Montenegro last time out, Vera Pauw opted to make four changes from Tom O’Connor’s sole competitive game in charge as Megan Connolly, Heather Payne, Keeva Keenan and Megan Campbell all returned to the starting XI.
Visitors Ukraine made the same amount of alterations from their hammering away to Germany – with manager Nataliia Zinchenko attempting to secure the Eastern European’s first qualifying win of the campaign.
Pauw’s side made a strong start in front of a healthy home attendance, with long throw-ins from Megan Campbell causing some early concern for Kateryna Samson in the Ukrainian goal – but the 31-year-old was able to claim well.
Wexford Youths forward Rianna Jarrett had the best of a quiet, yet entertaining opening period. The 25-year-old was however unable to keep her effort down, blazing over the bar into the South Stand at Tallaght Stadium.
The long throw-ins were causing considerable danger to the visitors - both Diane Caldwell and Louise Quinn very nearly profited from some indecision in the Ukrainian six-yard box - with both just heading wide from a Campbell delivery into danger.
Despite missing a golden chance, Jarrett kept working and in the 25th minute her invention and drive teed up McCabe at the near post who made no mistake in front of a fervent home support to give Vera Puaw’s side a deserved lead after a strong start to the game.
It got even better for the hosts minutes later, when Jarrett got on the end of McCabe’s corner to head home the second of the night for the hosts - who were in dreamland after such a positive start to the game.
However, disaster struck just after the half-hour mark when Lyubov Shmatko took advantage of a goalkeeping error from Marie Hourihane.
Hourihane snatched at a set-piece by Olha Basanska and centre-back Shmatko was on hand to turn home with minimal fuss inside the penalty area.
Bad turned to worse just before the break - with Hourihane once again being punished for some elementary mistakes as Olha Ovdiychuk made the scores level heading into half-time.
Ireland reacted well in the second half and soon retook the lead through an own-goal from Natiya Pantsulaya.
Jarrett got on a loose ball on the wing, before taking it under control and crossing it into the box. Denise O’Sullivan saw her rebound crash off Shmatko, before the ball ricocheted off Pantsulaya into the back of the net.
The Ukrainians retained their threat however, and went close through the head of Ovdiychuk - who couldn’t get a firm head on Tamila Khimich’s cross into the penalty area.
In truth, the game petered out in the final quarter of an hour, with the Republic of Ireland content with their lead, and Ukraine being unable to grab an equaliser given a lack of opportunities up front.
All in all, it was a good performance from Puaw’s first game in charge. While there are causes for optimism and concern, improvements will be made after an encouraging opening night to the new regime in charge of the women’s senior team.
Republic of Ireland Women: Marie Hourihan; Louise Quinn, Keeva Keenan, Megan Campbell, Diane Caldwell; Denise O'Sullivan, Niamh Fahey, Megan Connolly; Heather Payne (Leanne Kiernan, 71), Katie McCabe, Rianna Jarrett.
Subs not used: Tyler Toland, Harriet Scott, Julie-Ann Russell, Stephanie Roche, Claire O'Riordan, Hayley Nolan, Chloe Mustaki, Grace Moloney, Courtney Brosnan, Amber Barrett, Claire Walsh.
Booked: Katie McCabe (38).
Ukraine Women: Kateryna Samson; Tamila Khimich, Olha Basanska, Daryna Apanaschenko, Natiya Pantsulaya, Lyubov Shmatko; Tetyana Kitayeva, Iya Andrushchak (Nadiia Kunina, 86), Veronika Andrukhiv , Olha Ovdiychuk; Yana Kalinina (Tetyana Romanenko, 69).
Subs not used: Nadiia Kunina, Nicole Kozlova, Yana Derkach, Daryna Bondarchuk, Anna Petryk, Iryna Podolska, Iryna Sanina, Valentyna Tarakanova, Ganna Voronina.
Booked: Veronika Andrukhiv (12), Natiya Pantsulaya (68).
Referee: Desiree Drundbacher (Switzerland).
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Rianna Jarrett (Republic of Ireland).