Marissa Callaghan and Nadene Caldwell confirmed Northern Ireland Women’s qualification for the Euro 2022 finals as they secured a 2-0 play-off second leg victory over a Ukraine side who were down to 10 players by the time of the second goal.
Callaghan’s 55th-minute strike gave her side the lead at Seaview in Belfast before the substitute Caldwell added a second deep into stoppage time to make it 4-1 on aggregate and ensure the nation’s first ever participation at a finals tournament.
Kenny Shiels’ side, who won 2-1 in Kovalivka on Friday, started brightly and threatened from a series of early set pieces which repeatedly put the goalkeeper Kateryna Samson under pressure.
However, as Ukraine’s wide midfielders Olha Boychenko and Olha Ovdiychuk started to make an impression, they were served with a reminder that their job was far from done.
The Everton striker Simone Magill, who scored Northern Ireland’s winner in the first leg, tested Samson from a tight angle 12 minutes before the break, but Jackie Burns in the home goal was relieved to see Daryna Apanaschenko drag her shot wide in first-half added time.
In an untidy start to the second half, the home side dominated without creating genuine chances and when they finally did take the lead on the night it was a result of persistence rather than quality. Callaghan climbed to help on Julie Nelson’s deep free-kick and as the defender Darya Kravets hesitated, the home captain chased down the loose ball and stabbed it past Samson.
The visitors unravelled as time ran down as the midfielder Natiya Pantsulaya was sent off for a cynical foul on Sarah McFadden, before Caldwell made sure in the sixth minute of added time.
Elsewhere, Jess Fishlock fired a second-half equaliser as Wales Women claimed an encouraging 1-1 draw against Denmark in a friendly at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Fishlock volleyed home from Natasha Harding’s cross on the hour mark to cancel out Pernille Harder’s 24th-minute opener which saw her match Denmark’s scoring record.
It was a performance that will give some encouragement to Wales boss Gemma Grainger in only her second game in charge.