Ireland manager Colin Bell admitted that his side face an uphill battle to remain in the hunt for World Cup qualification following tonight's 2-0 defeat to Norway at Tallaght Stadium.
Two-set piece goals proved the difference between the teams as the group’s top seeds came away with all three points thanks to a goal in either half from Lisa-Marie Utland.
Ireland now travel to Norway on Tuesday for the return fixture in what is essentially a must-win encounter as Bell's side look to finish in the play-off position in Group 3.
"If we lose again, we’re done," Bell told RTÉ Sport.
"I thought the energy levels were good. The girls gave everything but we are using too much energy.
"If I say we are wasting energy it sounds quite hard, but when we have possession we give it away too easily at times and that costs even more energy.
"And then you are open, because you are attacking and it’s difficult against strong teams like the Norwegians who move the ball very well and are technically very good players."
Ireland now sit two points behind Norway in the group, and a draw on Tuesday would see them maintain only a mere mathematical chance of overtaking their hosts in the race for second place.
The Ireland manager agreed that a point in Norway would only really be a moral victory, getting a result away from home against such a quality side.
"A draw would definitely be a success, because we are playing against a quality side. You can see the difference. They are individually stronger, better, but they are the things that we are aiming for."
And while Bell conceded that his side were second best on the night, the coach was visibly irked by the nature of the defeat, conceding twice from set-pieces, and he believes that, otherwise, there was not too much difference between the sides.
Here is the goal that gave Norway a 1-0 half-time lead over the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup qualifier at Tallaght Stadium, Lisa-Marie Upland with the header #IRLWNT pic.twitter.com/XyR3cM0pkb— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 8, 2018
"We had phases, chances, half-chances, balls into the box, situations in the box, first half and second half, so I don’t think we were that far away. It is just in those decisive moments.
"We’re not miles away from Norway tonight. There’s not miles between us, but there is a gap.
"Again, it’s a learning curve. Sometimes you have to have a smack in the face or a couple to learn, but we have to learn fast and stop making these mistakes.
"We know that they are better than we are, but you can give them a much tighter game.
"When you look, we conceded a corner and a free kick, and it was so easy. You cannot concede those sorts of goals and expect to stay in the game. You cannot make those mistakes against this quality of team."
Despite Norway’s dominance in the first half, Ireland remained in the game going into the second 45, and a much improved performance saw Bell’s side enjoy a lot more possession and time spent in the opponents’ half.
And Ireland nearly grabbed an all-important equalising goal just three minutes into the second period as Leanne Kiernan raced clear, however, the striker’s shot was perhaps a little tame and the Norwegian keeper got down well to save.
"We should have scored, of course," lamented Bell.
"Leanne had a great run but she has got to finish it. Just whack it into the net, like she did against Slovakia. It was a great situation, but you have to finish those things."
Yet still, Ireland remained in the game and the coach kept faith with his formation throughout the early stages of the second half, perhaps reluctant to change things too soon, with Norway still looking very dangerous going forward.
But then the match was decided in the 61st minute as Utland found herself in acres of space after a set-piece was not cleared and had the simplest of tasks to double her tally and her side’s lead.
GOAL - Norway have doubled their advantage over the Republic of Ireland and now lead 2-0 at the Tallaght Stadium. A tall order now for the home side as we enter the final 15 minutes #IRLWNT pic.twitter.com/2DPER0lL2O— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 8, 2018
A frustrated Bell explained that he was just about to ask his side to step up the attack with Amber Barrett being readied to enter the fray, as Ireland were going to put two up front in an attempt to grab an equaliser.
"I was just about to make a change and go 4-4-2 and then we concede such a ridiculous free-kick," said Bell.
"So all of a sudden you are 2-0 down instead of 1-0 down, you go two up top, you reorganise, we put more pressure on, we’ve got two players to aim for but again we don’t give ourselves that chance.
"But this is world-class football. They are learning, playing against world-class players, but we have a long way to go."
So on to Tuesday and while Bell admits that it will be a very tough ask to go to Norway to take all three points, the Ireland coach maintains that it is not mission impossible.
"I don’t think so," said Bell. "We’ve got to try [to beat them]. Especially after tonight’s performance. We had situations were we were very good, situations where we got behind them.
"Again it’s the decisivess, we need too long to make decisions. And that is when you realise the levels that we are playing against.
"We’re trying to increase the potential that we have and fulfil the potential. They are giving everything they have got but they have to improve, and they want to improve."