An encouraging performance from the Republic of Ireland Women's team fell short against Italy in their international friendly at the Mapei Stadium.

Colin Bell's side produced an encouraging display in Reggio Emilia against a side who are preparing for the World Cup tournament in France this summer.

An early Katie McCabe goal was cancelled out by two Italy efforts either side of half-time to leave Ireland on the wrong side of the result.

McCabe's goal was the product of a swift counter-attack. Denise O'Sullivan was well positioned as she intercepted a crossfield pass in Italy's half and quickly swept the ball into McCabe's path.

The Arsenal star has been in superb scoring form of late and she made no mistake from close range, poking the ball into the back of the net to put Ireland in the ascendancy after just three minutes.

Italy responded by applying considerable pressure for the remainder of the half but Ireland seemed to be coping well with the relentless attacks. But with just five minutes of normal time remaining in the opening period, Italy nabbed the equaliser. 

Barbara Bonansea caught goalkeeper Marie Hourihan off her line and fired the ball into the roof of the net. 

It was a significant blow for Bell's charges heading into the half-time break and Italy went on to double their lead 13 minutes after the restart.

This time it was Daniela Sabatino who got on the end of an excellent cross to finish the ball to the net and snatch the lead from Ireland.

Ireland players celebrating McCabe's goal

The visitors responded well to that setback and hunted for an equaliser, with substitute Amber Barrett coming closest to restoring parity.

Again, O'Sullivan was the provider as she linked up well with Barrett, but the final shot took a deflection from the Italian goalkeeper Laura Giuliani which allowed a defender to rush back and clear their lines.

McCabe certainly troubled Giuliani with a brilliant shot from distance in the second half, but the keeper managed to parry the ball over the bar as Italy held on for the victory.

WNT Head Coach Colin Bell was disappointed that his team did not get a positive result from the game and feels his side need to be more clinical.

"I’m really disappointed because after the performance, we should have got a result. There were phases where Italy were very strong, the first half particularly, maybe after the second half where they increased the pressure and moved the ball fast, but that’s expected. 

"But we got off to a great start and then we had another counter-attack that we should have, and could have, finished to make it 2-0 – we had them. We had free-kicks and Megan’s (Campbell) throw that we didn’t utilise.

"They were decisive situations and we didn’t capitalise on the mistakes that Italy made, or when we had good play. And then we make a mistake for the first goal and then in the second half again we make a poor mistake, get drawn out of position in the box and (Daniela) Sabatino puts the ball in the net."

He added:

"We got ourselves back in the game and for the last 15 or 20 minutes we dominated, and we had free-kicks, corners and throws when Megan (Campbell) was on and we had plenty of chances that we didn’t use. So, it’s difficult for us. The performance, the intensity, the tactical decisions for large parts of the game were good, but we didn’t take our chances and we have to learn from that."

Republic of Ireland: Marie Hourihan; Claire O'Riordan, Megan Connolly, Louise Quinn, Megan Campbell (Diane Caldwell), Harriet Scott; Niamh Fahey (Rianna Jarrett), Tyler Toland (Emily Whelan), Denise O’Sullivan, Leanne Kiernan (Amber Barrett), Katie McCabe.

Italy: Laura Giuliani, Greta Adami, Elena Linari, Manuela Giugliano, Alia Guagni (Elisa Bartoli), Daniela Sabatino (Martina Rosucci), Ilaria Mauro, Lisa Boattin, Barbara Bonansea, Aurora Galli, Valentina Cernoia.

Referee: Sara Persson (SWE).