Germany 3-0 Republic of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland lost top spot in their UEFA 2022 Women's European Championship qualifying group but they'll head to Ukraine for next month’s vital tie with confidence after giving a good account of themselves in Essen.
Eight-times champions Germany scored all their three goals in the first half through Marina Hegering, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Lea Schuller, while restricting Ireland to chances from set-pieces.
Ireland boss Vera Pauw flagged beforehand that a result against the side who had bagged 31 goals without conceding in their four previous games was unrealistic, but she’ll take plenty of positives going into the final pair of matches.
Once Ireland avoid defeat in Kiev on 23 October, they will be guaranteed to finish second in the group.
The best three runners-up across the nine pools qualify directly for the delayed 2022 finals in England, with the remainder contesting the play-offs. Ireland conclude the campaign by hosting Germany at Tallaght Stadium on 1 December.
Marie Hourihan regained her place in goal after being dropped for the last outing six months ago in Montenegro, while Diane Caldwell switched to right-back.
Accommodating Louise Quinn, Niamh Fahey and Caldwell often influenced Ireland managers to deploy wing-backs but solidity was the priority for this task.
Even without Sara Doorsoun and Almuth Schult, Germany manager Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was able to name four players from Champions League finalists VfL Wolfsburg in her starting team.
Chances were always going to be a rarity for Ireland but they may rue missing one on six minutes before the hosts took control.
Leanne Kiernan's pace on the counter-attack led to a corner from which Katie McCabe picked out Caldwell. Unfortunately for the Bundesliga player, her misjudgement meant the ball struck her shoulder rather than head.
A corner at the other end moments later saw Germany power ahead. Hegering read Marozsan’s delivery perfectly to peel off Louise Quinn and guide her header inside the near post with a bullet header.
Quinn had the chance to atone within two minutes by rising to meet Megan Connolly’s corner, yet couldn’t keep her header down.
Ireland began to live dangerously, leaving Schuller unmarked to drag a shot past the near post. Alexandra Popp twice went close to adding to her 53-goal haul at international level, rocketing a free-kick which Hourihan held before nodding wide from a corner.
Hourihan had to be alert again to prevent Connolly scoring an own-goal and they survived another scare when the unattended Giulia Gwinn scuffed her close-range shot.
Operating on the break was Ireland’s best hope, outside of set-pieces, and Kiernan missed a great opportunity of releasing Rianna Jarrett on 35 minutes.
It proved a turning point as Germany soon struck twice in three minutes to kill off the tie.
Kathrin Hendrich began the move for the second goal on 38 minutes, cutting inside to find Marozsan. The Lyon midfielder still had plenty to do but a swift exchange of passes with Leupolz on the edge of the box produced a sight at goal which she gleefully took with a left-foot curler into the top corner.
If that goal wasn’t preventable, the third shortly afterwards certainly was. When Ireland only half-cleared a left-wing cross, Schuller was left alone 10 yards out to slice her volley beyond Hourihane and in off the post.
Ireland’s goalkeeper then produced a wonderful stop with her legs from Popp to avoid further damage heading into the break but settled in the second half to avoid a complete whitewash.
Granted, they were lucky that Germany didn’t punish loose back-passes from Aine O'Gorman and Kiernan but they were, overall, more composed in possession in the second period.
Still, Merle Frohms in the German goal made it through another half without having a save to make.
Germany: Merle Frohms (Eintracht Frankfurt); Kathrin Hendrich (VfL Wolfsburg), Marina Hegering (Bayern Munich), Lena Oberdorf (VfL Wolfsburg), Giulia Gwinn (Bayern Munich); Lina Magull (Bayern Munich), Dzsenifer Marozsan (Olympique Lyon), Melanie Leupolz (Chelsea); Svenja Huth (VfL Wolfsburg), Alexandra Popp (VfL Wolfsburg), Lea Schüller (Bayern Munich).
Subs: Leonie Maier (Arsenal) for Gwinn (35), Sara Däbritz (PSG) for Leupolz (63), Sydney Lohmann (Bayern Munich) for Marozsan (80).
Republic of Ireland: Marie Hourihan (SC Braga); Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Louise Quinn (Fiorentina), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United); Megan Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion), R Littlejohn (Leicester City), Denise O’Sullivan (Brighton and Hove Albion); Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Rianna Jarrett (Brighton & Hove Albion), Leanne Kiernan (West Ham United).
Sub: Heather Payne (Florida State University) for Kiernan (63).
Referee: Referee: Monika Mularczyk (Poland)