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The Under-17 teams of Wales and Belgium met twice in three days over the Bank Holiday weekend in South Wales.
The double header was part of both teams' preparation for the opening qualification round for the European Championships. The visitors are hosting England, Armenia and Turkey in early October whilst Wales travel to Russia along with Greece and the Faroe Islands. A similar pair of matches in Belgium last year had led to two narrow defeats for the Welsh girls but the opening fixture at Garden Village AFC on Saturday saw a Welsh victory by one goal to nil, Arsenal's Angarhad James heading the winning goal just after the hour.
The teams met again on Monday morning at 10.30 at Bryntirion Athletic FC's ground and this time it was Belgium who won a well contested match 2-1 in front of a crowd in excess of 200. The visitors grabbed an early lead with a fine shot from 25 yards by Nicky Van den Abbeele with flew past a diving Katy Maddock into the left hand corner of the net.
Wales started nervously but came increasingly into the game as the half progressed, with skipper Hannah Keryakopolis and Bristol Academy's Ellie Curson both threatening the Belgian defence with direct running. It was Curson who equalised just before the half hour with a powerful angled drive from the edge of the area past Stephanie Meykens.
Maddock had to be alert to intercept a through ball with Jassina Blom clear of the Welsh back four and Belgium were marginally the more threatening as half time approached, forcing three corners in quick succession. The visitors again started well after the break with Anderlecht's Megane Lerinckx a constant threat with clever footwork and ability to run at defenders.
It was Lerinckx who set up the winning goal, though she may have been offside as she received the ball on the left 35 yards from goal, drove into the area, drew substitute keeper Gemma Jackson and squared the ball for Liesbet Vanhoomissen to sidefoot home.
Wales battled very well, pushing forward at very opportunity but the Belgians, several of whom had played in the team which successfully qualified for the Elite round in 2009-10, were able to snuff out most of the danger as time ran out.
The match was enjoyable to watch with many talented players on both sides and will surely stand both squads in good stead for the intense three match schedule in five days which awaits them in their respective qualification groups in October.
Wales Under-17: Katy Maddock, Rhian Cleverley, Katie Williams, Sadie Mansell, Cherie Bessant, Danielle Oates, Angharad James, Hannah Keryakoplis, Ellie Curson, Chelsea Green, Shannelle Edwards. Subs: Gemma Jackson, Demi Edwards, Lauren Hancock, Hannah Williams, Chloe O'Connor, Ashleigh Harries, Hannah Lewis.
Belgium Under-17: Stephanie Meykens, Eline Peerenbooms, Sofie de Plus, Britt Vanhamel, Celine Verdonk, Julie Biedmans, Annouck Neyens, Laura Deneve, Megane Lerinckx, Nicky Van den Abbeele, Jassina Blom. Subs: Chloe Bellavia, Taika de Koker, Joyce Vaernewijck, Tessa Vandenboer, Kirsten Van Dessel, Liesbet Vanhoomissen, Elien Van Wynendaele.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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