Belfast Telegraph

Football history made in Belfast, as penalty kick is finally taken five days after it was awarded

By Steven Beacom

Football history was made in north Belfast at Seaview, home of Crusaders FC, following Uefa's decision to order the final 65 seconds of a European Championship women's under-19 qualifier to be replayed after the original game had ended in farce and acrimony through a refereeing howler last Saturday.

Around 100 spectators looked on in amazement as just over a minute of football surely changed the face of the game for ever with a precedent set to replay fixtures when serious mistakes are made.

In the brief amount of time that the game was played, the England under-19 women's team scored a re-taken penalty against Norway to draw 2-2 and qualify for this summer's European Championship finals in Israel as group winners.

Norway also qualified as best runners up. Had young Arsenal player Leah Williamson missed the high pressure spot-kick, however, England would not have made it.

This was the first time ever in a Uefa tournament that a replay of this type had occurred.

In extraordinary scenes last night the match restarted at 9.45pm, in the 96th minute, with Williamson calmly netting the spot-kick before the final whistle blew 60 seconds later.

Earlier in the day England had beaten Switzerland 3-1, also at Seaview, with Williamson slotting home another penalty, while Norway had hammered Northern Ireland 8-1 at Solitude in fixtures that were supposed to finish proceedings in Group 4.

The reason for the England and Norway teams having to return to the Shore Road venue to play for 65 seconds was down to a refereeing error in their first meeting on Saturday. Then England were 2-1 behind when Williamson scored an injury time spot-kick only for German referee Marija Kurtes to disallow the strike for encroachment after an English player ran into the box before the penalty was taken.

Instead of ordering the penalty to be retaken again however, as she should have done, Kurtes awarded a free-kick to Norway before ending the game.

The England players were left stunned and angry knowing they should have been given another opportunity to score the penalty.

The Football Association lodged a protest and Uefa ordered the remaining moments, starting with the penalty, to be replayed.

The same players turned up but there was no sign of Ms Kurtes, who was sent home and replaced by Kateryna Zora.

"I've never felt calmer, I had a job to do and did it," said Williamson, who broke into tears when embraced after the game by her mum Amanda, who had changed her flight to stay on and see the 'match'.

England coach Mo Marley added that justice had been done.

All this in the home country of the great William McCrum, the Co Armagh man who invented the penalty kick in 1890.

While last night's remarkable outcome was the first of its kind in European competition, and could set a precedent for future Uefa competitions, a similar incident did happen in a different football jurisdiction 10 years ago in a World Cup qualifier between Uzbekistan and Bahrain, though this one will gain much greater profile and publicity because an England team was involved.

And one thing is certain - Leah Williamson will never forget her famous Seaview spot-kick.

Belfast Telegraph


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