Montenegro 0-3 Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland moved top of their women’s 2021 European Championship qualifying group by beating minnows Montenegro in Petrovac with the help of two late goals.

Ahead at the break through Diane Caldwell’s second goal in successive games, it wasn’t until the hosts lost Darija Djukic to a red card that Ireland made their dominance count.

Captain Katie McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan bagged two goals in the last seven minutes to send Ireland into next month’s visit to first seeds Germany full of optimism.

In the build-up, Ireland manager Vera Pauw noted that Montenegro generally struggled to emerge from their own half but an error inside the first minute almost gifted them a shock lead.

Diane Caldwell was far too casual with her infield pass, allowing the home side gain possession and free Jelena Karflcic through the centre. Fortunately for Caldwell and Ireland, the attacker scuffed her shot to provide Courtney Brosnan with an early routine save.

It wouldn't be an isolated scare for Ireland. Once again, after 10 minutes, their high line was exposed when Armisa Kuc managed to slip in behind the defence and race clear only to drag her low shot wide of the far post.

By then, Ireland were also finding some spaces without testing Ivana Cabarkapa in the home goal. Clare Shine was unable to apply a proper connection when found inside the box by Katie McCabe’s cross.

Set-pieces were beginning to threaten the hosts, with Rianna Jarrett heading over from a corner.

They were then unlocked for the breakthrough on 12 minutes, barely contesting Louise Quinn’s header across goal from McCabe’s free for Caldwell to power home. A near perfect facsimile of their goal against Greece last week.

Struggling to build on that lead, as has been a regrettable trend, Ireland became wasteful in possession. Montenegro were in disarray, requiring defender Maja Saranovic to take their kick-outs, but they still managed to fire a shot through Kuc at Brosnan on the half hour.

As the interval approached, Shine rippled the side-netting with a drive before Denise O’Sullivan saw her volley from the edge of the box clip the inside of the post and rebound into Cabarkapa’s hands.

That trend continued straight after the restart as McCabe's cross had just too much weight for Shine to connect.

On 50 minutes, Shine’s lay-off from another McCabe cross fell six yards out to Rianna Jarrett who was denied on the line by Saranovic’s clearance.

Ruesha Littlejohn should have done better with a free-kick on the edge of the box which was deflected over.

The dismissal of Djukic on 65 minutes for a second booking created more gaps to exploit and after Quinn volleyed wide, they killed the game off.

Firstly, McCabe’s free-kick with seven minutes remaining whizzed past the wall and into the far corner.

O’Sullivan had been fouled for that free and she grabbed the third two minutes later by converting a lay-off by Jarrett into the roof of the net.

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MONTENEGRO: I Cabarkapa; A Popovic, M Saranovic, H Bozic, D Djukic; S Bulatovic; A Kuc (J Vujadinovic 88), J Karflcic, J Djokovic, N Stanovic (A Toskovic 73); M Desic. 

REP OF IRELAND: C Brosnan; D Caldwell, L Quinn, H Scott; A O'Gorman, N Fahey, D O’Sullivan; R Littlejohn, K McCabe; R Jarrett (A Barrett 88), C Shine (K Carusa 58).

Scorers: Diane Caldwell 12, Katie McCabe 83, Denise O'Sullivan 85

Referee: Maria Marotta (Italy)