Northern Ireland are facing Malta and Luxembourg this week in stage two of the qualifiers for Women’s U17 Euro 2024, with both games being played in Malta.

New to the panel are defender Olivia Best, who plays for North Carolina Courage in the United States, and Larne Women midfielder Ella Parker.

Northern Ireland got off to a great start when striker Rhianna Breen netted after just five minutes.

They continued on the front foot and Breen forced a save out of Malta keeper Maya Muscat before the girls in green and white went further ahead when fellow striker Niamh Boothroyd tucked the ball home.

Muscat saved from debutant Best before Malta pulled a goal back through defensive midfielder Francesca Bartolo.

Another Northern Ireland forward, Gracie Conway, then got in on the scoring act when she slid the ball past Muscat to make it 3-1, with Boothroyd providing the assist.

Midfielder Mia Moore had a shot blocked just before the interval, while Malta right-back Kaysia Micallef also had an effort blocked.

Conway dragged a couple of efforts wide as Northern Ireland continued to push forward when the action resumed.

Breen had a shot blocked, and also missed the target with an effort, before Muscat saved from substitute Zoe Knox.

Breen and Boothroyd made way for Sophie Kelly-Bradley and Bernie Ferreira – and Ferreira made quite an impact from the bench.

Northern Ireland captain Darcie McNeill squandered a chance and Malta substitute Amelia Vassallo had a shot blocked before Ferreira missed an opportunity on 66 minutes.

However, in the 84th minute, the substitute made her next chance count, slotting home to make it 4-1 to Northern Ireland.

And just two minutes later she nicked the ball off a defender and coolly slotted it past Muscat to give Northern Ireland a 5-1 lead – and that’s how it finished.

Next up for Northern Ireland is the Euro qualifier against Luxembourg on Saturday (February 24) which kick-off at 10am UK time.

2024-02-22T11:28:08Z dg43tfdfdgfd