Spain clinch title in shoot-out
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Spain 0-0 Republic of Ireland
(aet, Spain win 4-1 on pens)
Spain's Dolores Gallardo saved Ireland's first two penalties then Ana Maria Catala converted the winner.
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Spain won the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship for the first time, overcoming the Republic of Ireland in a penalty shoot-out after an absorbing final in Nyon had ended scoreless.
Beaten 7-0 in last year's showpiece by Germany – who Ireland deposed as champions in the semis – Spain had the better of play in the 100 minutes but it was only when spot kicks came that they were able to defeat a nation who had never even qualified for a European women's tournament before. Goalkeeper Dolores Gallardo saved the first two Ireland efforts from Rianna Jarrett and Jessica Gleeson before Ana Maria Catala converted the clincher to give Spain a title to go alongside their 2004 UEFA European Women's U19 Championship crown.
Although Spain settled more quickly into their rhythm, Ireland came closer to scoring in the opening exchanges, with Denise O'Sullivan narrowly failing to apply the requisite touch to Megan Campbell's left-wing cross. Ireland threatened again in the 16th minute but Gallardo was quick off her line to claim Laura Gutiérrez's headed back pass just when it seemed O'Sullivan would get to the ball first.
But Spain's dominance of possession was almost rewarded on the half-hour mark when Sara Mérida's left-wing cross was met by Gutiérrez but she headed over from close range. A minute later Spain put together the move of the match to prise open the Irish defence. Mérida, Raquel Pinel and Iraia Perez de Heredia exchanged passes to play Pinel through but she put her shot over the bar.
After half-time Spain continued where they left off with Pinel heading over and having another shot blocked in the penalty area. When Mérida played a corner short to Amanda Sampedro, the Spain captain's fierce shot was met by a one-handed save from Grace Moloney. Sampedro had the ball in the net a minute later but her effort was ruled out for offside.
Undaunted, Sampredo fired in another shot from the edge of the area on the hour which Moloney again turned behind, while from the resultant corner Ciara O'Brien cleared off the line. Ireland came close to the opener themselves after 65 minutes when Aileen Gilroy's shot from 25 metres was well saved by Gallardo. Near the end Gutiérrez ghosted in at the far post to meet Mérida's cross but her effort came back off the post with Moloney for once beaten.
With temperatures in Nyon in the high 20Cs, the tempo slowed in extra time with the only real chance coming when Mérida's well-struck 95th-minute free kick again brought a fine save from Moloney. However, it was Spain's keeper who starred in the shoot-out.