Women’s Nations League round-up: Pernille Harder hits hat-trick as Denmark beat Wales 5-1; Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland both win

Wales suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat in the Women’s Nations League to Denmark as Pernille Harder hit a hat-trick in Cardiff.

Bayern Munich striker Harder, once the world’s most expensive female player after moving from Wolfsburg to Chelsea in 2020, left Wales with a mountain to climb after scoring twice in the opening 11 minutes.

Although Jess Fishlock gave Wales hope with a stunning second-half goal, Frederikke Thogersen and Sanne Troelsgaard calmed Denmark’s nerves and Harder completed her treble and inflicted the heaviest defeat of Gemma Grainger’s reign as Wales manager.

Wales tried to bounce back from an opening day Nations League defeat in Iceland, while Denmark – who reached the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup last month – had been traveling with confidence after upsetting top Group A3 players Germany on Friday have made.

Former Chelsea striker Pernille Harder (right) scored a hat-trick for the Danes

The two sides had previously met in April 2021, a 1-1 friendly draw at the Cardiff City Stadium in what was Grainger’s second game in charge.

Grainger named seven players from the team that started against Denmark that evening, with Rachel Rowe replacing Kayleigh Green in the only change after the defeat in Reykjavik.

Rowe’s introduction was intended to spark a Wales attack that had failed over the previous twelve months: Grainger’s side have scored more than one goal in a match only once in thirteen games: April’s friendly win over North -Ireland 4-1.

Wales clashed with Stephanie Frappart, the first female referee to officiate a men’s World Cup match, when Rowe was penalized within five seconds and it would prove to be an ominous sign as Denmark immediately took control.

Ceri Holland’s inability to clear a Denmark corner led to Rhiannon Roberts bringing down Amalie Vangsgaard, and Harder comfortably converted the sixth-minute penalty by sending Olivia Clark the wrong way.

Denmark doubled their lead when Inter Milan midfielder Thogersen crossed from the right and Harder finished flawlessly from 10 yards.

The Welsh frustration continued as Roberts was wild with the hosts’ first attempt on target and Fishlock was booked for tripping Sofie Svava.

Harder squandered the chance for a first-half hat-trick by sending a golden opportunity wide before Holland fired into the side netting on the stroke of half-time.

Wales failed to get a shot on target throughout the first half, but that wait would end in spectacular fashion after 51 minutes.

Fishlock and Green, who were sent to Rowe at halftime, found Carrie Jones in space together.

Jones slipped the ball through Sofie Pedersen’s legs and Fishlock delivered a rasping strike from 20 yards for her 37th Wales goal.

Fishlock’s animated celebration was echoed by Grainger on a technicality, but Denmark quickly restored their two-goal cushion on the hour.

Svava crossed from the left and Thogersen had the simple task of poking the ball home from a few yards out.

Substitute Troelsgaard added a fourth with a diving header three minutes from time before Harder took possession and held on to a loose ball after Signe Bruun’s effort came back off the crossbar.

So Wales remain pointless and bottom of their section and it doesn’t get any easier with the away tests in Germany and Denmark next month.

Ireland make impressive gains in Hungary under interim boss Gleeson

Kyra Carusa scored Ireland's third goal in Budapest
Kyra Carusa scored Ireland’s third goal in Budapest

The Republic of Ireland continued to impress under interim manager Eileen Gleeson as they brushed aside Hungary 4-0 in their second Women’s Nations League match in Budapest.

Goals from Caitlin Hayes, Katie McCabe, Kyra Carusa and Denise O’Sullivan proved enough for the visitors to build on their historic 3-0 win over Northern Ireland at the weekend.

It was another fantastic performance under Gleeson, who nevertheless appeared to rule himself out of replacing former boss Vera Pauw in the build-up to the match.

The Republic started well in what looked to be their toughest Group B test, with Heather Payne’s cross clearing the top of the crossbar before both Payne and Carusa had further chances.

Making her second start, Hayes opened the scoring in the 18th minute when she converted a brilliant McCabe cross by nodding home from close range.

Arsenal star McCabe continued to impress and she doubled Ireland’s lead in style four minutes before the break when she stormed home a half-cleared try by smashing the ball home from 25 yards.

Gleeson’s side continued to dominate after the break, with Carusa heading in a fine cross from Payne to make it 3-0 after 49 minutes.

Carusa went close again and it was Hayes’ turn to hit the top of the crossbar before Carusa turned the ball back for O’Sullivan to fire into the bottom corner in the 70th minute.

Ireland goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan was called into action twice in the last 20 minutes but kept her clean sheet as the Gleeson side cruised home to a second successive impressive win.

Northern Ireland leads Albania and records first victory

Lauren Wade (left) scored Northern Ireland's winner
Lauren Wade (left) scored Northern Ireland’s winner

Captain Lauren Wade hit the only goal of the match as Northern Ireland defeated Albania to record their first win in the Women’s Nations League.

After losing to the Republic of Ireland in their League B Group 1 opener, Wade struck to mark her 50th cap and secured a 1-0 win at Seaview.

Reading winger Wade was on hand to turn home from close range in the 57th minute after Albania goalkeeper Viona Rexhepi had pushed away Nadene Caldwell’s effort.

The home side dominated throughout the match, scoring 21 shots to just Albania’s four. The narrow victory left Tanya Oxtoby’s team second in the group after two games.