Northern Ireland have qualified for their first ever major tournament, defeating Ukraine 4-1 on aggregate to reach the 2022 Women’s Euros.
Kenny Shiels side – 2-1 ahead from the first leg – put in a professional performance to win 2-0 at Seaview to book their spot in next seasons tournament, writes Josh Bunting.
On the stroke of half-time, Julie Nelson made a crucial block when Olha Ovdiychuk ran onto a loose ball following a goal-kick, before powering her way into the box but the Crusaders defender got back to win the challenge.
Northern Ireland took the lead on 55 minutes when Nelson whipped a free-kick to captain Marissa Callaghan, who flicked the past Kateryna Samson.
Ukraine then had a player sent off in the 87th minute when Natiya Pantsulaya brought down Sarah McFadden, when she was going in one on one with the goalkeeper.
Nadene Caldwell made it 2-0 when she pounced on a mistake at the back, rounding the keeper to slot into the net.
Shiels said after the final whistle: “You have to take it in its context we look at Rory McIlroy – what he has done for Northern Ireland, what Steven Davis has done for Northern Ireland. This here, far and away, the best ever sporting achievement for Northern Ireland – for the UK actually – if you take it in its context.
I look at my staff – grown men crying. I’m nearly in bits myself but it’s down to the girls at the end of the day.”
Russia and Switzerland also qualify
Russia’s earlier 1-0 win in Portugal proved enough, Elvira Todua keeping a clean sheet to protect that first leg advatnage.
Switzerland were held by the Czech Republic but went through 3-2 on penalties. Kateřina Svitková gave the away side the lead from distance but minutes after coming off the bench, Coumba Sow latched onto a Lia Wälti pass to equalise. Svitková agonisingly hit the woodwork at the death, before the Swiss progressed in the shoot-out.