Ireland team on course in Belgium

Ireland 5 - 0 Mexico
Published Tuesday, 20 March 2012
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After a scoreless first half, Ireland eventually broke down a dogged Mexico side to make it a clean sweep of victories at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgium on Tuesday.

Ireland team on course in Belgium
Ireland team celebrates (© Presseye)

But Ireland's hopes of booking their place at London 2012 are still very much in the balance with their two most difficult games to come.

After a rest day on Wednesday they play former Olympic champions Spain on Thursday and then take on their Belgian hosts 24 hours later.

Only the outright winners will progress and the top two finishers after the round robin phase will meet each other in Sunday's final.

This was a memorable day for one player in particular Nicola Symmons who became the most capped Irish player of all time winning her 172nd cap for her country - the record had previously been held by Eimear Cregan.

The Irish girls took a long time to break down the Mexican defence but patience was the key as the result propelled Gene Muller's side to the top of the table.

"it was generally a frustrating match for us we found it hard to create goal scoring chances in the first half," said the national coach.

"But we were more fluid and clinical in the second half.

"There are only three teams left that can win the tournament and our next two games against Spain and Belgium are critically important"

The first half was totally dominated by Ireland with all the territory and winning four penalty corners but the Mexican keeper was having a great day in goal keeping out all Irish attacks.

Ireland started the second half with more speed and aggression and Aine Connery almost gave Ireland the lead with a great deflection but again the Mexican keeper pulled off a top class save.

The opening goal came from Ireland's fifth penalty corner in the 44th minute courtesy of an Audrey O'Flynn drag flick her fourth such strike of the tournament.

Ireland continued to dominate but could not find a way through the overworked Mexican defence.

In the 59th minute Mexico's Correa got her marching orders when she received a yellow card for a heavy challenge on Emma Clarke and at the same time Ireland's opponents substituted their keeper.

In the remaining 11 minutes Ireland scored four goals - the first of them in the 60th minute when Nici Daly earned a free just outside the circle and after a goal mouth scramble Emma Smyth reversed into the net from six yards out.

In the 64th minute after good work by Alex Speers earned Ireland a penalty corner and O'Flynn made it 3-0 when her initial drag was saved but she buried the rebound.

Smyth got her second from a second phase penalty corner two minutes later and in the final minute of the game Cliodhna Sargent made it 5-0 from open play.

Ireland starting XI: Pamela Smithwick, Nicola Symmons, Cliodhna Sargent, Sinead McCarthy, Audrey O Flynn, Emma Smyth, Lizzie Colvin, Emma Clarke, Alex Speers, Aine Connery, Nicola Evans.

Subs: Michelle Harvey, Shirley McCay, Nicola Daly, Chloe Watkins, Lisa Jacob.

© UTV News
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