Northern Ireland Women ended their training camp in Marbella with a 1-0 defeat against Romania on Wednesday afternoon, writes Josh Bunting.
After a hard-fought performance, it was a close-range Carmen Marcu effort following a corner that proved the difference between the sides.
Jackie Burns made a fine stop to keep Northern Ireland level inside three minutes when Mara Bâtea fizzed a shot in from outside the box.
Kenny Shiels’ side had their first sight of goal inside 14 minutes when Kirsty McGuinness whipped a free-kick over the wall, but it cracked against the top of the crossbar before bouncing over.
Nadene Caldwell hit a strike just wide from outside the box and Rebecca Holloway also came close to breaking the deadlock when Lauren Wade played a short corner into her feet, but she fired just wide from close range.
On the stroke of the break, McGuinness forced a save from Camelia Ceasar, who plays her club football at Serie A side Roma.
Northern Ireland started the second half well and when Magee pulled a low cross into the area, Teodora Meluta hooked the ball away from Simone Magill’s path.
Shiels made a number of changes just before the hour mark but four minutes later Romania took the lead, when a corner found its way into the path of Marcu who scored with an improvised finish into the top right-hand corner.
Two minutes later it was so nearly 1-1, when Magill met a Wade corner perfectly but her header was well blocked by Olivia Oprea at the front post.
Wade drilled an effort towards goal that Ceasar did brilliantly to get across her goal and save, Rachel Furness saw her shot was blocked on the edge of the box before it fell for Chloe McCarron and she fizzed her effort over the crossbar.
Romania weren’t offering much in an attacking sense but did create an opening via Laura Rus who drilled her shot wide after some initial good work.
The Irish responded in a positive fashion when Magill flicked the ball onto Wade, whose powerful low shot was blocked.
A game that could have gone either way with plenty of positives for Shiels to build on ahead of April’s World Cup qualifiers with England and Austria.