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Wales relegated from Women’s Nations League top tier after Iceland defeat

01 Dec 2023 3 minute read
Wales head coach Gemma Grainger. Photo Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Phil Blanche, PA

Wales were relegated from the top tier of the Women’s Nations League after losing 2-1 to Iceland in Cardiff.

Goals in each half from Hildur Antonsdottir and Dilja Zomers condemned Wales – who had needed to win by a two-goal margin to avoid relegation – to League B with a game to spare.

Substitute Elise Hughes gave Wales some consolation with a header deep into stoppage time.

Wales conclude their programme against Germany on Tuesday, but Gemma Grainger’s side will be playing simply for pride in Swansea after slipping to a fifth Nations League defeat.

Despite some promising periods in games – and Wales dominated the first half here against opponents 15 places higher than them in the FIFA rankings – the gulf has been ultimately too big for the Dragons to bridge.

Iceland are third seeds in Group A3 behind Germany and Denmark, and represented Wales’ best chance of putting Nations League points on the board.

Wales were left to rue the absence of VAR at the Cardiff City Stadium when Jess Fishlock went down in the box from Selma Sol Magnusdottir’s untidy 17th-minute challenge.

Swiss referee Esther Staubli might have been advised to go to the pitchside monitor had VAR been in operation.

But the hosts were forced to take Staubli’s decision on the chin and fell behind 12 minutes later after Ceri Holland went close with a close-range header.

Wales failed to deal with Saedis Heidarsdottir’s cross from the left and Antonsdottir got her toe to the ball just before Hayley Ladd to prod home.

It was a cruel blow for Wales, who had pressed high and been on top but were let down by some wayward finishing.

Fishlock, Rachel Rowe and Kayleigh Green were all guilty of missing the target before Hlin Eiriksdottir produced a first Iceland effort that Olivia Clark comfortably collected.

Wales responded positively to falling behind as Angharad James volleyed just over and Fishlock found space 20 yards out to force a decent save from Telma Ivarsdottir.

Iceland had the ball in the net for a second time after 57 minutes, but Staubli correctly ruled it out as Eiriksdottir had clearly handled before forcing the ball over the line.

Liverpool winger Holland, whose strong runs often produced panic among the visitors and was comfortably Wales’ best player, continued to shine in the vain search for an equaliser.

Iceland doubled their lead 11 minutes from time when substitute Zomers rifled past Clark from 20 yards before Hughes gave Wales the smallest crumbs of comfort.

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