Euro 2022: Rachel Furness and Simone Magill give NI victory over Ukraine in play-offs
Northern Ireland scored two away goals to beat favorite Ukraine 2-1 in the first leg of the Euro 2022 play-offs.
Rachel Furness put Kenny Shiels’ sides in front five minutes before Daryna Apanaschenko leveled the hosts at Kovalivka.
Liverpool midfielder Furness was then forced to injure his ankle as the teams leveled off at the break.
However Simone Magill restored NI’s advantage 12 minutes after the restart with a clinical finish.
It was a great win for Northern Ireland, who are in their first play-off for a major tournament after finishing second to Norway in qualifying.
The second stop will take place at Seaview on Tuesday and will be live on BBC Two Northern Ireland, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website.
Positive departure canceled
In sunny conditions under the evening sun in Kovalivka, Northern Ireland pushed the home side up the pitch from the first whistle. Captain Marissa Callaghan had a quick shot before Kirsty McGuinness’s excellent cross was just inches from Nadene Caldwell’s deployed boot at the back post.
However, their positive start was rewarded with the first goal within five minutes when Furness took advantage of Tamila Khimich’s sloppy pass through the 18-yard line to put away a crucial away goal, her sixth effort in seven games.
Ukraine had half-hearted penalty calls after the ball grazed Julie Nelson’s arm and Roksolana Kravchuk’s effort drifted widely as the hosts, ranked 25 places above NI, started to win in trust.
Although he didn’t create any real chances, the equalizer came in the 22nd minute when Iya Andrushchak’s cross in the middle was kicked off the post by the unmarked Apanaschenko.
The goal appeared to lift the hosts and Northern Ireland’s cruel injury chance continued as Furness was forced to leave the pitch in tears with a half-hour ankle injury and replaced by Chloe McCarron.
Already missing eight regular players from his side for the play-offs, Shiels is hoping Northern Ireland’s top scorer can recover in time for Tuesday’s second leg at Seaview.
Shiels had spoken ahead of the game about using injured players as motivation and Furness’s injury gave the tiring NI an extra boost as the teams leveled off at the break.
Fit magill strikes again
The second half started in the same vein as the first. Callaghan’s shot across the goal was just out of reach for Magill and the Everton forward, who stepped up in Furness’s absence, turned well in the area, but his powerful effort at an angle. tight hit the side net.
Jackie Burns held Khimich’s long-range effort at bay in a rare home attack before being lucky for the third time for Magill in 57 minutes.
Darya Kravets failed to manage Sarah McFadden’s header over the home defense and Magill showed excellent strength to beat the defender on the ball before a calm and emphatic arrival beyond the reach of goalkeeper Iryna Sanina .
Much like the two matches against Belarus in qualifying, Northern Ireland dug deep after a setback and Magill’s goal was a fair reward for a determined performance by Shiels’ tight-knit side.
Burns produced a smart save to prevent Kravchuk’s 25-yard free-kick and although Ukraine’s possession statistics rose in the playoffs, Northern Ireland put the hosts together well, especially the exceptional Rebecca McKenna.
Khimich was turned down by Burns in the finals in a late scare, but Northern Ireland will take a crucial advantage in Belfast for the second leg as they aim to make a first major final.
Watch the entire game on the BBC iPlayer (UK only)