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Northern Ireland won 4-1 on aggregate>
Northern Ireland 2 (Callaghan 55, Caldwell 90)
Northern Ireland won 4-1 on aggregate
Northern Ireland sealed their place in next year's UEFA Women's Euro 2022 Finals in England with a commanding display and victory at Seaview.
The result was no more than they deserved with an excellent defensive display when needed and taking their chances when they came, to round off a 4-1 aggregate victory over the play-off matches.
Ukraine made four changes from the first leg and started the match with intent, searching for an early goal to bring the tie level on aggregate again. However, Northern Ireland were looking very dangerous from set pieces and one almost led to them taking a lead, a scramble from a corner was almost bundled in by Laura Rafferty.
Then Northern Ireland captain Marissa Callaghan, who had replaced the injured Rachel Furness in the number ten role, had a snapshot blocked and a neat through ball from Sarah McFadden just failed to reach Kirsty McGuinness as she threatened to break free down the left.
On 32 minutes, Northern Ireland striker Simone Magill outpaced the Ukraine defence and fired in a low drive from an angle which was collected at the near post by Ukrainian keeper Kateryna Samson.
Towards the end of the half, the visitors pushed forward and the home defence had to dig deep to keep them out. There were some timely blocks and interventions, with the experienced trio of Julie Nelson, Ashley Hutton and McFadden in the thick of it flanked by Rebecca Holloway and the excellent Rebecca McKenna, who once again greatly impressed.
On the stroke of half time, Ukraine captain Darya Apanashchenko, who was beginning to look dangerous with her close control and slick passing, drilled a low shot wide of the mark before Nelson stepped in to stifle a penetrating run into the area by Olha Ovdiychuk.
Northern Ireland negotiated the spell of pressure and took control of the game in the early stages of the second half. They were rewarded ten minutes after the restart as they went in front, Nelson floated a free kick into the area towards Callaghan, who flicked the ball on and turned to touch past the advancing Samson before sliding it into the empty net from an acute angle.
The home side's tails were up after the strike and moments later the Ukraine defence were under pressure again as Magill and Kirsty McGuinness combined, however McGuinness was forced wide and her low cross drifted out of play.
The visitors continued to press and rained a number of crosses into the area but both Nelson and Hutton, using all their experience to great effect, were imperious at the back and headed most of them clear. Burns' handling was faultless all night when called upon and Northern Ireland always looked sharp on the break, Chloe McCarron making a great break down the right but just failed to find Magill with her low centre.
At the other end, McFadden produced a superbly timed challenge to thwart a Ukraine attack, while Ovdiychuk fired a shot harmlessly over the top.
Ukraine's task was made even harder late on as they were reduced to ten players, Natiya Pantsulaya being shown a straight red for veering away from the ball and blocking off McFadden as she was running towards the Ukrainian area.
As the game entered six minutes of added time Northern Ireland substitute Sam Kelly produced a lovely piece of skill to force a corner and then she scooped a shot wide from distance.
Ukraine threw all they could but could make no impression against the home defence, for whom the icing on the cake was yet to come.
Right at the death, Caldwell sealed the win for Northern Ireland. Magill nicked the ball off a defender and nudged it to the midfielder, who showed great coolness to cleverly round the keeper and stroke the ball home to spark off wild celebrations and complete an unforgettable night.
Northern Ireland: Jackie Burns, Rebecca Holloway, Sarah McFadden (sub Toni-Leigh Finnegan 90mins), Julie Nelson, Ashley Hutton, Rebecca McKenna, Marissa Callaghan (sub Nadene Caldwell 90mins), Chloe McCarron, Simone Magill, Laura Rafferty, Kirsty McGuinness (sub Samantha Kelly 85mins). Subs not used: Rebecca Flaherty, Ciara Watling, Emma McMaster, Louise McDaniel, Emily Wilson, Danielle Maxwell, Kerry Anne Beattie.
Ukraine: Kateryna Samson, Anastasiya Filenko, Olha Basanska, Lyubov Shmatko, Olha Boichenko (sub Yana Malakhova 75mins), Olha Ovdiychuk, Darya Apanashchenko, Natiya Pantsulaya, Tamila Khimich, Nadiya Kunina (sub Nicole Kozlova 58mins), Darya Kravets (sub Roksolana Kravchuk 69mins). Subs not used: Daryna Bondarchuk, Iryna Sanina, Iryna Podolska, Iya Andrushchak, Anna Petryk, Veronika Andrukhiv, Yana Kalinina, Anna Voronina, Anastasiya Voronina.
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