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Ireland face Olympic decider after shootout loss

Spain 0-0 Ireland (Spain win 3-0 on penalties)

Ireland’s hopes of appearing at Paris 2024 will depend on defeating Great Britain or Belgium on Saturday in the third/fourth place play-off at the ongoing Olympic qualifier in Valencia, following a 3-0 penalty shootout loss to hosts Spain this afternoon.

Patricia Alvarez had the first shot in anger of the game for Spain, which was blocked by Sarah Hawkshaw, and Ireland went straight up the other end and won a long corner in a first quarter where there was little to separate the two teams.

The second quarter saw Spain, ranked eighth in the world, start well and Blanca Perez saw her cross-cum-shot whizz across the face of the goal eluding everyone, including her team-mates.

Ireland went on to dominate the second quarter against a side ranked five places above them and had several circle entries, with Katie Mullan forcing a couple of saves out of Clara Perez.

Hawkshaw was unfortunate to see her effort in the 23rd minute bounce off one of the umpires.

The two sides reached half-time with no stoppages, no injuries, no cards and only one penalty corner registered.

Spain made the brighter start after the restart, but goalscoring chances were at a premium as the match headed inexorably towards a penalty shootout.

The first two penalties were missed, with Róisín Upton failing to capitalise on Laia Vidosa opening miss.

Lucia Jiminez put Spain in the driving before Hawkshaw spurned the chance to level matters.

Julia Strapatto made it 2-0 to Spain and Perez’s save from Hannah McLoughlin left Ireland with a mountain to climb, one that proved insurmountable when captain Maria Lopez converted her penalty.

Ireland head coach Sean Dancer was disappointed with the result, but not the performance, saying afterwards: “We are really happy with how we played today. When a game goes to a shootout, it’s always a difficult way to lose a game.

“Belgium have to take on Great Britain to decide who plays in the final and who we will play against on Saturday. We just need to focus on ourselves as we prepare for Saturday.

“We are proud of how we defended. But we also dominated possession today and in attack. We created a lot of chances today, we just need to start putting more of them away.”

Ireland: Ayeisha McFerren, Róisín Upton, Niamh Carey, Sarah Hawkshaw, Katie Mullan (captain), Hannah McLoughlin, Naomi Carroll, Ellen Curran, Charlotte Beggs, Katie McKee ,Beth Harper
Subs: Sarah McAuley (4 mins), Michelle Carey (6 mins ), Sarah Torrans (7 mins ), Elena Neill (4 mins ), Chloe Watkins (5 mins ), Deirdre Duke (7 mins), Liz Murphy (GK)

Spain: Clara Perez (GK), Lucia Jiminez, Maria Lopez (C), Marta Segu, Constanza Amundson, Blanca Perez, Begona Garcia, Xantal Gine, Laia Vidosa, Alejandra Torres-Quevedo, Patricia Alvarez
Subs: Laura Barrios (11 mins), Sara Barrios (4 mins), Belen Iglesias (4 mins), Lola Riera (7 mins), Beatriz Perez (5mins), Julia Strapatto (4 mins), Maria Tello (GK)

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