Northern Ireland ladies come up short in French test
N Ireland 0 France 4
Northern Ireland were run ragged as a slick French outfit moved confidently towards World Cup qualification at Windsor Park last night.
The home side worked ceaselessly throughout and in the end the score was a little flattering to France, but they were clearly a vastly more skillful side.
Northern Ireland lost their concentration in the final minute to concede a fourth after France had faded a little as the second half wore on.
But after being gifted an early opener, there was only ever going to be one winner.
The Northern Irish girls knew they were in for a torrid night of ball-chasing after Saturday's 6-0 hammering in France, and the French set out their stall early on by keeping the emphasis on retaining possession.
They did so safe in the knowledge that the chances would sooner or later present themselves.
It turned out to be sooner and when the opener came in the 16th minute, it was an unexpected bonus for France.
Midfielder Sonia Bompastor sent over a cross to the six yard box which keeper Emma Higgins appeared to have covered, but as she got down to grab the ball, it somehow squirmed underneath her and into the net.
Up until then the Northern Ireland ladies had coped well with the slick French passing.
Northern Ireland's rare forward charges relied on Rachel Furness up front, but she suffered from a lack of support, forced into shooting from long range on a couple of occasions and failing to trouble French keeper Berangere Sapowicz either time.
France doubled the lead in the 19th minute when Louisa Necib pulled the ball back from a free kick wide on the right, Bompastor played in neatly into the area and Camile Abily supplied a neat finish from 10 yards.
Right on half-time Higgins produced a great save to deny Thiney, getting down well to smother a well-hit low shot.
It took France just six minutes of the second half to score their third as Thiney broke clear and fed Eugenie Le Sommer to take around the stranded Higgins and poke home.
Furness and Sarah McFadden linked up well on in the 80th minute when it looked as though Northern Ireland could hit France on the break, but McFadden over hit her through ball and the defence cleared easily.
Furness, who needed treatment at one stage, was marked out for close attention all evening and was finally withdrawn five minutes from time.
Winger Amandine Henry looked a threat when she came on midway through the second half and it was from her 87th minute corner that Ophelie Meilleroux had the chance for a fourth, but could only blast her effort high and wide.
But the fourth was not long in arriving, though, substitute Marie Laure Delie sweeping home after running onto Necib's through ball in the final minute.
Northern Ireland: Higgins, Caldwell, Bailie, Simpson, Nelson, Hutton, McKenna, Turner, McFadden, Furness, Vance. Subs: Patterson, Corry, Hurst, Mulholland, McDowell, McMullan, Bergin.
France: Sapowicz, Blanc, Meilleroux, Soubeyrand, Franco, Bompastor, Abily, Le Sommer, Necib, Bussaglia, Thiney. Subs: Deville, Viguier, Bolleau, Herbert, Lepailleur, Henry, Laure Delie.
Referee: Paloma Quintero Siles.