Ireland suffered an opening night defeat in their quest for European Championship qualification after goals from Emma Koivisto and Linda Sallstrom gave Finland a 2-0 victory at Tallaght Stadium on Monday evening.
In their first competitive game in over a year, Ireland took some time to settle into their stride and it was the visitors who began brightest when Emmi Alanen fired wide from the edge of the box after some great play.
Despite the hesitant start, Ireland gradually grew into the game in the later stages of the opening ten minutes and had some great deliveries into the box but they failed to test Tinja-Riikka Korpela. Niamh Fahey with the best effort that sailed over the crossbar.
Denise O’Sullivan will be annoyed she did not give the hosts the lead after the Glasgow City star disposed Anna Westerlund before racing through on goal but when one-on-one with Korpela she fired wide.
The game's opening goal arrived soon after O’Sullivan’s miss when Emma Byrne was caught off her line by Emma Koivisto who shot from 25 yards sailed over the keeper’s head.
Despite falling behind Ireland were determined to respond quickly, Meabh De Burca fired wide, before O’Sullivan had a header from a Katie McCabe cross, but after her effort beat the keeper a defence got back to stop the ball from crossing the line.
With Ireland playing the better football, Finland showed they were not here to lie down and Annika Kukkonen forced a good save from Byrne - who gathered at the second time of asking.
The sides then traded great opportunities first Louise Quinn fired over after the keeper failed to gather a long range free-kick, before Linda Sallstrom forced Byrne into another great save.
As the half-time break approached, Ireland had another opportunity, but again O’Sullivan failed to test Korpela after some great play from McCabe and Aine O’Gorman.
When the sides emerged from the dressing rooms to a heavy downpour, it was Ireland who picked up where they left off - Ruesha Littlejohn forcing a good save from Korpela before the first-half substitute headed the resulting corner wide.
Moments later, De Burca continued to show her attacking prowess, first her wicked low cross was missed by everybody inside the box before the ball was recycled to the right-back whose second cross found O’Sullivan who fired wide.
As Ireland continued to play the better football, Finland showed why they are dangerous from set pieces and De Burca was forced to clear off the line when Byrne mistimed her dive.
After living dangerously from set pieces, Ireland showed their vulnerability once again when Linda Sallstrom was allowed a free header from close range and the forward duly slotted home past Byrne after the keeper mistimed her dive.
Despite being two goals behind, Ireland tested the Finnish keeper, first McCabe failed to reach a long ball from Stephanie Roche before Diane Caldwell fired wide after some great work from Siobhan Killeen.
Ireland: Emma Byrne (GK)(c), Sophie Perry, Megan Campbell (Ruesha Littlejohn 43), Louise Quinn, Meabh De Burca, Denise O’Sullivan, Niamh Fahey, Diane Caldwell, Katie McCabe, Aine O’Gorman (Stephanie Roche 72), Julie-Ann Russell (Siobhan Killeen 71)
Subs Not Used: Niamh Reid-Burke (GK), Karen Duggan, Grace Murray, Clare Shine
Booked: McCabe (76)
Finland: Tinja-Riikka Korpela (GK)(c), Katri Mattsson, Tuija Hyyrynen, Anna Westerlund, Emma Koivisto, Natalia Kuikka, Emmi Alanen, Annika Kukkonen, Nora Heroum, Adelina Engman (Juliette Kemppi 87), Linda Sallstrom
Subs Not Used: Minna Meriluoto (GK), Maija Saari, Ria Oling, Jenny-Julia Danielsson, Julia Tunturi, Linda Ruutu
Match Referee: Jana Adamkova (CZE)
Extratime Player of the Match: Annika Kukkonen (Finland)
Aaron is a Dublin based reporter who joined Extratime.ie in February of 2015 as a Women's National League reporter. Two months later he began covering League of Ireland football and most weekends he can be found roaming the sidelines of a WNL game or in an LOI press box. Despite his short career with Extratime, Aaron has also covered Women’s Champions League football along with Irish Women’s International. Aaron can be contacted on twitter @Aaron_c91.