Olivia O'Toole came off the bench to give the Republic of Ireland a 1-0 friendly win against a strong Arsenal LFC side ahead of their crucial qualifying trip to Italy.
The Republic of Ireland have boosted their confidence ahead of the crucial UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ qualifier in Italy on Saturday week with a 1-0 friendly victory against 2006/07 UEFA Women's Cup winners Arsenal LFC.
Defeat in Villacidro would leave Ireland with a struggle to make the play-offs for the finals in Finland, but against an Arsenal lineup including seven of England's FIFA Women's World Cup side, Noel King's team put on a fine defensive performance. Substitute Olivia O'Toole struck within seconds of her introduction not long before the hour to defeat a team who were knocked out of the UEFA Women's Cup in the quarter-finals this term but have won all ten of their league matches in 2007/08.
Although Ireland were fielding key Arsenal trio Emma Byrne, Yvonne Tracy and Ciara Grant, the Gunners had the better of the early play with Rachel Yankey going close and Kelly Smith denied by Byrne. Early in the second half Faye White turned a Karen Carney free-kick just past the post for Arsenal, but it was Ireland who broke the deadlock when Byrne saved from White and on the break O'Toole chased down a long clearance and slipped the ball into the net. Arsenal's Julie Fleeting had a strike ruled out for offside in added time, but Ireland held on to secure their second friendly win in a week after the 4-1 victory against Poland on Saturday. Ireland are level with Italy and Sweden on nine points in Group 2, but with both games against the strong Scandinavian nation still to come a loss in Sardinia would be a huge blow.