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Pernille Harder hat-trick heaps more Nations League woe on wounded Wales

26 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Denmark’s Pernille Harder (right) celebrates scoring their side’s fifth goal of the game with team-mates during the UEFA Women’s Nations League Group A3 match at the Cardiff City Stadium, Wales. Picture date: Tuesday September 26, 2023. Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Phil Blanche, PA

Wales suffered a heavy 5-1 Women’s Nations League defeat by Denmark as Pernille Harder struck a Cardiff hat-trick.

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 inside the opening 11 minutes.

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

Wales were seeking to recover from an opening-day Nations League loss in Iceland, while Denmark – who reached the final 16 of the Women’s World Cup last month – had travelled with confidence after upsetting Group A3 top seeds Germany on Friday.

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 of the team that started against Denmark that night, with Rachel Rowe replacing Kayleigh Green in the only change from the defeat in Reykjavik.

Rowe’s introduction was designed to ignite a Wales attack that had stuttered over the last 12 months or so: Grainger’s side scoring more than one goal in a game just once in 13 outings – April’s 4-1 friendly win over Northern Ireland.

Wales’ Sophie Ingle dejected during the UEFA Women’s Nations League Group A3 match at the Cardiff City Stadium, Wales. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Wales fell foul of Stephanie Frappart, the first female official to take of a men’s World Cup game, when Rowe was penalised inside five seconds and it was to prove an ominous sign as Denmark seized instant control.

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

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

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

Harder passed up the chance of a first-half hat-trick by sending a gilt-edged opportunity wide before Holland fired into the side netting on the stroke of half-time.

Wales had not managed a shot on target throughout the first half, but that particular wait was to end in spectacular fashion after 51 minutes.

Fishlock and Green, sent on at half-time for Rowe, combined to find Carrie Jones in space.

Jones slipped the ball through the legs of Sofie Pedersen and Fishlock delivered a rasping 20-yard strike for her 37th Wales goal.

Fishlock’s animated celebration was replicated by Grainger in the technical area, but Denmark quickly restored their two-goal cushion on the hour.

Svava crossed from the left and Thogersen had the simple task of prodding 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 of the match ball, latching onto a loose ball after Signe Bruun’s effort had come back off the crossbar.

So Wales remain pointless and bottom of their section and it does not get any easier for them with away tests in Germany and Denmark next month.

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