Canada overcomes early Olimpico to defeat Ireland 2-1

Olympic champion Canada has overcome the blow of conceding an early ‘Olimpico’ to secure a vital 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland in Perth.

Canada coach Beverly Priestman pulled a huge selection bombshell when she dropped captain Christine Sinclair to the bench for Wednesday night’s match to make room for fit-again midfielder Jessie Fleming.

In an even bigger shock, world No.22 Ireland took the lead in the fourth minute when star attacker Katie McCabe scored direct from a corner kick.

Her left-footed ‘Olimpico’ curled in the air and evaded the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan before rebounding in off the upright.

But an own goal to Irish defender Megan Connolly in first-half stoppage time and a second-half strike from Adriana Leon gave Canada the win.

The result sets up a blockbuster Group B clash between Australia and Canada next Monday in Melbourne.

First, the Matildas will take on Nigeria on Thursday, looking to build on their 1-0 win over Ireland last week.

For Ireland, its hopes of making it past the group stage are officially over after suffering two tight losses.

McCabe’s ‘Olimpico’ sent the pro-Irish crowd of nearly 18,000 fans into raptures, and even drew praise from injured Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight, who scored an Olimpico at the 2019 World Cup.

“It’s pretty unusual for it to happen,” Kellond-Knight told the Seven Network.

“I think we should celebrate. The way McCabe hit her [goal] was phenomenal. To bend it in top far post, that’s a decent strike.”

Ireland’s hopes of entering the break with a lead evaporated in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time when defender Connolly turned the ball into her own net while attempting to clear a tricky cross.

Sinclair’s shock omission from Canada’s starting team marked the first time in her six World Cup appearances that she missed out on a spot in the XI, with her penalty miss in the 0-0 draw against Nigeria proving costly.

The 40-year-old was brought on for the start of the second half, and Canada hit the lead in the 53rd minute when a pinpoint pass into the box from Sophie Schmidt was duly finished off by Leon.

Leon controlled the ball with her right foot before sending it home with her left in a massive goal under pressure.

Sinclair had several good opportunities to become the first player – male or female – to score in six separate World Cups, but she lacked the finishing touch.

Nevertheless, Sinclair’s creativity proved crucial as Canada dominated for long periods of the second half, with Ireland’s desperate attempts to find an equaliser falling short.

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