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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Phil Blanche

Wales turn on the style to comfortably beat Northern Ireland in friendly

PA Wire

Wales turned on the style to run out comfortable 4-1 winners in their friendly international against Northern Ireland in Cardiff.

First-half goals from Jess Fishlock, Angharad James and Hannah Cain – her first for Wales – ended this ‘Battle of Britain’ contest after half an hour.

Rachel Rowe struck a fourth home goal after 64 minutes before Lauren Wade provided some late cheer for Northern Ireland with a classy finish from a difficult angle.

There was some distance between the two nations on FIFA’s world rankings – Wales being 31 compared to Northern Ireland’s 45 – but on the Cardiff City Stadium pitch the gulf was a lot wider.

The midfield trio of skipper Sophie Ingle, James and Fishlock ran the show as Northern Ireland struggled for fluency before a record crowd of 6,831 for a Wales home friendly.

Wales were seeking revenge after narrowly losing out to Northern Ireland to play at Euro 2022 before Gemma Grainger took charge of the Dragons.

Kenny Shiels had overseen Northern Ireland’s maiden qualification for a major tournament, but the former Kilmarnock and Derry manager’s four-year stay ended in January.

Andy Waterworth, the Irish Football Association’s head of elite player development, was in interim charge and his expected one-game reign saw Wales establish an instant stranglehold.

Sarah McFadden’s last-ditch tackle stopped Fishlock bearing down on Shannon Turner’s goal, but the seemingly inevitable Wales lead arrived after 16 minutes.

Ingle threaded a delightful pass to Rowe and Fishlock met her cross with a thumping volley at the near post.

It was the 36th goal of Fishlock’s Wales career and took her to within eight of record scorer Helen Ward, who was honoured with a half-time presentation after her recent retirement from international football.

Cain diverted James’ drive into the hands of Turner before the lead was doubled when Ingle found Fishlock with a delicious ball over the Northern Ireland defence.

This time, Fishlock chose not to go for goal, setting up James who finished from close range off a post.

Five minutes later, an unmarked Cain had the simple of task of tapping home Rhiannon Roberts’ cross and the game was effectively over.

McFadden managed a speculative attempt as the first half drew to a close and Caragh Hamilton fired just wide after the restart as Northern Ireland belatedly stirred.

The visitors rang the changes in the second half and Rachel Furness returned after stepping away from international duty in August for personal reasons.

Furness was about to make her bow when Turner missed Ceri Holland’s cross completely and Rowe capitalised at the far post.

Wade reduced the deficit in superb fashion 17 minutes from time after dispossessing Gemma Evans and beating out-of-position goalkeeper Olivia Clark.

But it is Wales who appear in far healthier shape heading into the inaugural Nations League later this year as Northern Ireland’s search for a permanent manager continues.

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