Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland girls are winners to me and the record crowd, says boss Alfie Wylie

N Ireland 0 -2 Spain

By Laure James

Alfie Wylie was brimming with pride after his Northern Ireland girls held their own against Spain last night.

The Northern Ireland coach said he congratulated his resilient and talented squad, not for a 2-0 defeat to the campaign's top-scorers in qualifying, but for the progress they've made together - in front of a crowd of 4,289, a record for women's football in Northern Ireland.

"I am delighted, I am just over the moon to have seen them work so hard. Spain must have come here thinking we are amateur league compared to them but we really put it to them.

"The girls gave everything they had against one of the best sides in the world. I had been at the previous record, a crowd of 2,600 when the senior women played England, so knowing there were that many people last night is just incredible.

"The girls deserve that kind of support, they have worked so hard and I think they gave everyone something to cheer about there."

Lucía García scored her 12th of the campaign on the half-hour mark, netting from close range after Laura María Pérez side-footed her pass from the edge of the six-yard box.

Northern Ireland stepped up a gear to drive the attack down the right hand side as the half-time break approached. Strapping midfielder Rebecca Bassett paired up promisingly with Emily Wilson, but couldn't get a shot away.

In the second half, Spain started to divert their attack down the right, having identified what a handful Bassett could be.

Captain Patricia Guijarro doubled Spain's lead with a stunning strike from distance on 53 minutes, volleyed after she intercepted a pass 30 yards out.

With 15 minutes to go, Northern Ireland staged what looked to be the perfect counter-attack. Megan Bell sprinted from her own half to hold off three Spanish opponents before squaring the ball to substitute Abbie Magee, whose shot on-target was blocked by Noelia Ramos.

Wylie added: "Spain is an excellent team and fully deserved the win, but we had a game plan which the girls followed.

"We showed tonight that there is a big market for girls' and women's football in Northern Ireland and I believe we have girls there who will perform on the big stage in years to come.

"I congratulated them afterwards, and I thanked them.

"I sincerely thanked every one of them for the work they put in and said I, the staff and the whole country are so proud of them.

"I didn't congratulate them for a defeat, I congratulated them for the progress they had demonstrated out there.

"The level of club that our girls play for, compared to Spain is very different, but they've come together so well at this international level. We only have three girls born in 1998 in our squad, so that shows just how young our team is.

"Winning isn't always everything, it's not always about being the first over the line, they are all winners tonight in my eyes."

N IRELAND: Perry, Moore, Robson (White 46), McMaster, Burns, McPartlan, Bassett, Bell, Wilson (Magee 65), Reilly, McFarland (McDaniel 86):

Subs not used: McCaughtry, Coppel, Orr, Beggs.

SPAIN: Ramos, Batlle (Anitua 86), Sierra, Egurrola (Moral 77), Perez, Gujarro, Fernandez, Menayo, L. Rodriguez, Rabano (Ramos 67), Garcia.

Goals: Garcia 30, Gujarro 57

Subs not used: M. Rodriguez, Oroz, Rodriguez Costa.

Player of the match: Bassett

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Justina Lavrenovaite (Lithuania)

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