The Republic of Ireland snatched a vital point with an injury time equaliser in the second game of their FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign this afternoon at the Gradski Staidum in Sinj.
The equaliser, which came in the fourth minute of injury time, was initially credited to Diane Caldwell after she had jumped with a group of Croatian defenders to meet a long throw from Megan Campbell.
However, after viewing video footage, UEFA confirmed that the final touch had come off Croatia’s Allison Lee Scurich and she was credited an own goal.
Caldwell, however, wasn’t too upset with missing out on her second international goal and was just happy that Ireland had taken a point from a game that they deserved to win on the balance of play.
"We know that Megan has a fantastic long throw so we were just getting bodies in the box and around the goal. She put in a great ball and I went up with the centre back and it maybe bounced off both our heads and in. But whatever way it went, it doesn’t matter. At least it went in," said Caldwell.
"Obviously we are very disappointed with the result. We came here for three points and we are disappointed we didn’t get it. But, at least we kept battling and we got the equaliser in the 90th minute and at least we came away with a point so it is something positive," she added.
Ireland made three changes from the side which beat Slovakia on Sunday with Sophie Perry coming in for the injured Seana Cooke, Denise O’Sullivan replacing Rachel Graham and Sara Lawlor taking the place of the injured Fiona O’Sullivan.
From their second corner, which was only half-cleared, Croatia had a great chance but the goalbound shot from the edge of the box by Landeska was blocked on the line by Sophie Perry.
The home side took the lead on 11 minutes when an excellent passing movement ended with a low cross from the right by Lojna being turned home at the near post by Caldwell under pressure from Kolar. The Croat striker was initially awarded goal but UEFA subsequently gave the goal as an own goal by Caldwell.
Ireland almost equalised on 24 minutes when Denise O’Sullivan just failed to connect with a low cross from Sara Lawlor and the Irish went on to control the game until half-time without creating any more clear-cut chances.
They visibly upped their performance after the break as the temperatures hit 25 degrees and Denise O’Sullivan went close before a Sophie Perry long range shot was pushed away by the keeper for a corner.
Other chances fell Ireland’s way but a lack of composure in front of goal was evident before Megan Campbell hit the crossbar in the 80th minute with a trademark free kick from 35 metres.
Just before that Campbell effort, Emma Byrne showed all her experience to deny Lojna after the Croat attacker found herself in a one-one situation following a mistake in the Irish defence.
Several more chances were spurned before, four minutes into injury time, a long throw from Campbell was met by Caldwell who sent a glancing header to the net for an equaliser that the Irish side fully deserved for a battling performance against a robust and resolute Croatian side.
Captain and goalkeeper Emma Byrne made her 100th appearance for Ireland to become only the second woman and seventh player to win 100 senior caps for Ireland.
Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (GK) (C); Sophie Perry, Yvonne Tracy, Diane Caldwell, Megan Campbell; Meabh De Burca (Aine O’Gorman 58), Shannon Smyth, Ruesha Littlejohn, Julie Ann Russell; Sara Lawlor (Dora Gorman 46), Denise O’Sullivan.
Croatia: Doris Bacic (GK), Kristina Nevrkla, Vanesa Zlosa (Helenna Hercigonja Moulton) , Allison Lee Scurich, Maja Jošcak, Violeta Baban, Katarina Kolar (Kristina Šundov 67), Iva Landeka (C), Izabela Lojna (Ana Marija Kalamiza 83), Gabrijela Gaiser, Sandra Žigic.
Referee: Knarik Grigoryan (Armenia)