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It turned out to be a day of mixed fortunes for the British teams in the opening round of the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship Finals in Northern Ireland with one win and two defeats from the three matches played.
England were the only victors on the day, with a 2-1 success against Italy at Mourneview Park. The first half was very evenly contested with few clear cut opportunities at either end, with Rinsola Babajide having a shot blocked and Mollie Rouse firing wide from distance.
After the break, the deadlock was broken when Georgia Allen followed up to score after Ellie Brazil's initial attempt had been saved by Alessia Piazza. Chloe Peplow went close to extending England's lead but fifteen minutes from time, a counter attack saw Allen latch on to Brazil's pass before finishing clinically for her second goal. Chloe Kelly was denied by a good save from Piazza but despite a late scare when Annamarie Serturini pulled one back, they closed the game out for a winning start.
England are next in action on Friday against the Netherlands, who kept up the feelgood factor in their country by beating France 2-0, both goals coming in the first half via Victoria Pevlova and a Julie Piga own goal.
It was a historic day for Northern Ireland as hosts of the tournament and they took on Spain in their opener at Windsor Park in front of a crowd of 4,289. Theirs was a very tough start but they emerged with heads held high after going down 2-0 to the highly fancied Spaniards, who have been runners-up in this competition in each of the last three years.
Northern Ireland came under early pressure but were able to keep things tight overall but were undone by a fine move on the half hour. Laura Maria Perez had looked in good form and sped down the right, making her way into the area before sliding the ball across goal for Lucia Garcia to tuck the ball home from point blank range.
Nuria Rabano drove a shot over after a good run took her past two defenders but Northern Ireland determinedly kept themselves in the game and were one goal behind at the interval.
After the restart, Spain continued to push forward and they increased their lead in the 53rd minute in fine style, a 30-yard volley from captain Patricia Gujarro which gave Northern Ireland goalkeeper Lauren Perry absolutely no chance.
Damaris Egurrola went close to a third when she blazed over, before the impressive Megan Bell produced a fabulous moment which brought the home crowd to life, picking the ball up just outside her own penalty area and embarking on a driving run which saw her get past five challenges before setting up a chance for Abbie Magee whose well struck shot brought out a fine save from Noelia Ramos.
Northern Ireland must now set their sights on a meeting with Scotland, a match given extra significance as they also lost their opening game, 3-0 to Germany. Giulia Gwinn put the Germans in front on 19 minutes when she drilled home from just inside the area and a hard working Scottish side were breached for a second time just before the interval, Laura Freigang's inswinging corner being headed in from close range by Annalena Rieke. The second half was more open with Rebecca Flaherty having an excellent match in goal for Scotland, but she was to be beaten once more with ten minutes remaining, Ereleta Memeti heading firmly in from a Dina Orschmann cross.
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Scotland's Samantha Kerr is tackled by Lisa Schoppl
(bottom) Northern Ireland defender Teresa Burns makes a firm challenge on Ana Marcos Moral
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