Northern Ireland women make history in Euros
Skipper Marissa Callaghan and Nadene Caldwell ensured Northern Ireland Women will go to the finals of a major tournament for the first time after a Euro 2022 play-off victory over Ukraine.
Skipper Callaghan’s 55th-minute strike gave her side the lead at Seaview in Belfast before substitute Caldwell added a second deep into stoppage time to make it 4-1 on aggregate and ensure the nation’s first ever participation at a finals tournament.
Kenny Shiels’ side, who won 2-1 in Kovalivka on Friday, started brightly and threatened from a series of early set-pieces which repeatedly put goalkeeper Kateryna Samson under pressure.
However, as Ukraine’s wide midfielders Olha Boychenko and Olha Ovdiychuk started to make an impression, they were served with a reminder that their job was far from done.
Everton striker Simone Magill, who scored Northern Ireland’s winner in the first leg, tested Samson from a tight angle 12 minutes before the break, but keeper Jackie Burns was relieved to see Daryna Apanaschenko drag her shot wide in first-half added time.
In an untidy start to the second half, the home side dominated without creating genuine chances and when they finally did take the lead on the night it was a result of persistence rather than quality.
Callaghan climbed to help on Julie Nelson’s deep free-kick and as defender Darya Kravets hesitated, she chased down the loose ball and stabbed it past Samson.
The visitors unravelled as time ran down as midfielder Natiya Pantsulaya was sent off for a cynical foul on Sarah McFadden, before Caldwell made sure in the sixth minute of added time.