Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Julie Nelson inspires 'the real Northern Ireland' to bounce back with victory in Slovakia

Slovakia 1-3 Northern Ireland

By Adam McKendry

Julie Nelson's performance summed up the character of her Northern Ireland team as they defeated Slovakia 3-1 in Zilina to pick up the first points of their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Nelson flew out late to join the squad after attending the funeral of her grandmother and it was her early equaliser that set Alfie Wylie's side on their way to the win, with Rachel Furness and Caragh Milligan also scoring.

"It was a difficult week for myself and my family," she reflected. "I'm glad to be here with the team and thankfully get on the scoresheet to help the team to victory.

"Their goalkeeper picked up a backpass so it was a nice indirect free-kick on the six-yard-line. My only thought was to hit as hard and as low as I could. Thankfully it found a gap between the defender's legs and it went in."

Boss Alfie Wylie heaped praise on the Durham defender as Northern Ireland returned to form after opening defeats to Norway and the Republic of Ireland.

"I think it means so much," he said. "She's had a hard weekend and she came out a bit late because she was attending the funeral. That's hard.

"To come back, score a goal for Northern Ireland and play so superbly, it speaks volumes of the character of the players we have.

"They're all ambassadors for Northern Ireland and they didn't want to let anybody down. We thought we underperformed when we played the Republic recently.

"I think the girls showed the real Northern Ireland. They were out to prove a point. Nobody could doubt their desire to play for Northern Ireland and their ability."

Northern Ireland started the better of the two, but it was Slovakia who struck first, captain Jana Vojtekova on hand to tap home a 20th minute corner.

The lead lasted 13 minutes as home goalkeeper Lucia El-Dahaibiova made the mistake of picking up a back pass, allowing Nelson to drill home the free-kick.

Furness then gave Northern Ireland the lead for the first time in the second half, beating El-Dahaibiova to a 52nd minute cross and heading in.

And nine minutes later the Reading star turned provider, firing a low ball across the box for Milligan to divert in.

SLOVAKIA: El-Dahaibiova, Holla, Bartovicova, Harsanyova, Vojtekova, Suskova, Hmirova, Biroova, Mikolajova, Surnovska (Fabova, 62 mins), Slukova (Matavkova, 61 mins).

Subs not used: Susolova, Chladekova, Havranova, Horvathova, Koslabova.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Higgins, Newborough, Guy (Foy, 45 mins), Rafferty, Nelson, McFadden, Bell (Sherwood, 81 mins), Callaghan, Milligan, Magill, Furness.

Subs not used: Perry, Lindsay, McKenna, Hyndmann, Doherty.

Belfast Telegraph


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