Author: Dafydd Jones
Publisher: Y Clwb Pêl Droed
Wales missed out on a European Championship qualification play-off, despite a sublime 3-0 win over Belarus at Rodney Parade.
First half strikes from Natasha Harding and Rachel Rowe were added to by Jess Fishlock’s late penalty.
Ludlow’s side were reliant on Northern Ireland dropping points, who cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Faroe Islands to end Wales’ hopes.
Here are five main talking points from Wales’ impressive win.
It has become typical of Jayne Ludlow’s side to put in a disciplined, organised performance in defence, and the win over Belarus was no different.
The centre-back partnership of Hayley Ladd and Josephine Green performed admirably, whilst Rhiannon Roberts and Charlotte Estcourt blocked crosses at every turn.
A midfield trio of Jess Fishlock, Sophie Ingle and Angharad James was also a shrewd selection by Ludlow, as Wales certainly won the battle in the middle of the park.
Wales reduced Belarus to few chances at goal, with their best opportunity coming from Anastasiya Shcherbachenia’s free-kick, which hit the bar.
Due to the Faroe Islands’ record in the group, it was always going to be unlikely that Northern Ireland dropped points.
Despite that, Wales’ attitude was exemplary, as they came out of the blocks quickly and went ahead through Harding’s goal.
Ludlow’s side pressed tirelessly throughout the 90 minutes and were clinical in taking their chances.
From the performance, it was clear that the score in Belfast had no effect on the Wales players.
Widely regarded as Wales’ key player, Jess Fishlock put in a fantastic performance.
Playing alongside Ingle and James, who were also industrious, Fishlock pressed, harried and created opportunities for Ffion Morgan and Natasha Harding, the latter netting the opener.
Another impressive performer was Rachel Rowe, who scored in the reverse fixture between the two sides.
The striker was a threat throughout and secured a second goal for Wales with a terrific strike.
Northern Ireland end Wales’ hopes
Despite the sublime performance, Northern Ireland secured their European Championship qualification play-off place with a 5-1 win over the Faroe Islands.
Northern Ireland fell behind early to Jensa Kannuberg Torolvsdottir’s goal, but hit back through a double from Rachel Furness, along with goals from Chloe McCarron and the McGuinness sisters.
Although it was expected that Northern Ireland would comfortably beat the Faroe Islands, the result will still be a huge disappointment for Wales.
Wales will rue missed opportunities
Having conceded just four goals in the entire campaign, Jayne Ludlow will be wondering how Wales didn’t secure a play-off place at the very least.
Wins over Belarus and the Faroe Islands both home and away were positives for Wales, but it was the results against Northern Ireland that were costly.
All the way back on matchday two, Wales were in a comfortable position, leading Northern Ireland 2-1 going into the last minute thanks to goals from Angharad James and Kayleigh Green.
In the fourth minute of added time, Ashley Hutton equalised for the visitors, securing a draw.
Although it’s easy to say in hindsight, but that late equaliser for Northern Ireland made all the difference.
(Featured Image: Dafydd Jones)