The Republic of Ireland sealed promotion from League B to the Women’s Nations League top tier with a dramatic, rain-delayed 1-0 victory in Albania.
Denise O’Sullivan’s winner in the 88th minute decided a game that was stopped for an hour due to torrential rain in Shkodër – and Ireland’s fourth win in four games under interim head coach Eileen Gleeson proved enough to secure their place in League A as Northern Ireland held Hungary to a 1-1 draw in Belfast.
Playing conditions became tricky in the first half, with a considerable amount of water settling on the pitch thanks to a torrential downpour. The referee, Araksya Saribekyan, opted to suspend play for 60 minutes at half-time to allow ground staff to clear away water, rather than abandon the match altogether.
When the game resumed, Kyra Carusa was denied by keeper Viona Rexhepi and skipper Katie McCabe headed over as Albania frustrated opponents who had beaten them 5-1 in Dublin last week. The visitors made the breakthrough two minutes from time, midfielder O’Sullivan firing home from Kyra Carusa’s assist.
Hungary had led Northern Ireland through Dora Zeller’s 56th-minute strike, but Danielle Maxwell’s rocket of a finish 10 minutes from time earned the hosts a point and secured promotion for their neighbours. Simone Magill twice went close as the hosts finished the stronger at Seaview, but they could not find a winner.
League A: Spain put seven past sorry Swiss
Spain are closing in on a place in the Women’s Nations League finals after hammering Switzerland 7-1 in Zürich. The world champions are five points clear of Sweden in Group A4 with two games to play after Alexia Putellas led a ruthless dismantling of the hosts, who stay bottom of the table.
Putellas scored twice for Montse Tomé’s side, the first coming after 11 minutes to make it 2-0 following Oihane Hernández’s early opener. The floodgates opened in the second half, with Manchester United’s Lucía García making it three before Putellas converted a penalty just past the hour mark.
Alayah Pilgrim pulled one back for the hosts on the hour, before Real Madrid’s Athenea del Castillo was set up by Putellas for Spain’s fifth, having come on for García in the 64th minute. Del Castillo got her second goal in the 89th minute from Salma Paralluelo’s pass before Maite Oroz scored Spain’s seventh in stoppage time.
Sweden’s hopes of overhauling Spain in top spot suffered a big blow as they scraped a 1-1 home draw with Italy. The Juventus defender Linda Sembrant struck in stoppage time to rescue a point for the hosts in Malmö, after Valentia Giacinti had fired the Italians into a surprise lead early in the second half.
In Group A3, Denmark stayed top of the table after a hard-fought 2-1 win over an improved Wales in Viborg. Amalie Vangsgaard’s looping header put the hosts in front after 28 minutes, with Sofie Bredgaard curling home a second from the edge of the box 10 minutes later.
Gemma Grainger’s side responded well in the second half, with Sophie Ingle setting up Jess Fishlock to cut the gap in the 72nd minute and ensure a nervy finale for Denmark. Wales could not find a leveller, and may need to beat Iceland in their next match to keep their hopes of avoiding relegation alive.
Germany kept the pressure on the group leaders with a 2-0 victory in Reykjavik, Giulia Gwinn’s second-half penalty breaking the deadlock against Iceland before Klara Bühl made the game safe with a second goal in stoppage time.
Scotland appear doomed to drop into League B after a narrow 1-0 home defeat to the Netherlands. Esmee Brugts cut inside and curled the ball in off the far post on the hour to keep the Dutch top of Group A1. Pedro Martínez Losa’s side are five points adrift of England, who lost 3-2 to Belgium, at the bottom with two games to play.
In Group A2, leaders France were held to a goalless draw at home to Norway, who picked up a vital point in their bid to avoid dropping into the second tier. Austria won 2-1 in Portugal, Eileen Campbell’s 77th-minute winner putting them three points behind France before the two sides meet in Rennes on 1 December.