June 21, 2024

Wales marked Rhian Wilkinson’s first game in charge by opening their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign in style against Croatia.
Jess Fishlock bagged a brace to move within two of Helen Ward’s record 44-goal tally before Rachel Rowe and Angharad James added gloss to a comfortable 4-0 victory.

Wales had not played at Wrexham’s Stok Racecourse since March 2020 and new boss Wilkinson, the former Canada defender and England and Team GB assistant coach, was determined to make a winning start.

Wales made the perfect start after four minutes as Rowe slipped in Fishlock, who punished untidy defending with a cool sidefoot finish.

It was Fishlock’s 41st Wales goal and drew her level with Gareth Bale’s international tally – but the 37-year-old would move beyond that mark four minutes into the second period.

Fishlock grabbed her second after controlling Gemma Evans’ pass on her chest and lifting the ball over Doris Bacic.

Rowe slotted the ball home two minutes later after James won possession and Fishlock had set her up with an intelligent square pass.

Evans claimed a second assist with another pinpoint diagonal pass as James slid in to score from a difficult angle.

Wales’ next qualifier on Tuesday is away to Kosovo, who were beaten 2-0 by Ukraine in their opening tie on Friday.

Scotland draw with Serbia in opening qualifier
Scotland picked up a point in their opening European Championship qualification match with a goalless draw against Serbia.

Scotland had the better chances in the first half through Erin Cuthbert and Lisa Evans, but the hosts threatened after the break, with Jovana Damnjanovic having their best effort.

Scotland were handed an early blow when goalkeeper Sandy MacIver went down after catching a free-kick and despite trying to play on, she was substituted off in the ninth minute with Lee Gibson taking her place.

Scotland began to get a grip on the game and had their first real chance in the 25th minute when Cuthbert received the ball on the edge of the area but her shot was pawed away by Milica Kostic.

The Chelsea midfielder was in the thick of the action again two minutes later with a great cross from the right to Evans, but her header looped over the bar.

The hosts suddenly sprung into life as a deflected cross from Tijana Filipovic was loosely held by Gibson and shouts from the Serbian players that the ball had crossed the line were waved away by the referee.

Substitute Jane Ross nearly made an instant impact just minutes into the second half after rattling the crossbar from outside the box before Vesna Milivojevic had a crack from distance at the other end saved by Gibson.

Serbia had a great chance to go ahead in the 64th minute when Damnjanovic broke down the left flank, but after cutting into the box her meek shot was easily saved by Gibson.

Scotland held on for the goalless draw and face Slovakia on Tuesday at Hampden Park.

Northern Ireland held by Malta
Northern Ireland were held to a goalless draw by Malta as their European Championship qualifying campaign got off to a frustrating start.

Tanya Oxtoby’s side will feel hard done by after Simone Magill had a goal ruled out for handball late in the first half, while the same player also had a penalty appeal turned down.

Northern Ireland controlled most of the play in Belfast but struggled to create clear opportunities prior to Magill finding the net.

A rare incisive move saw Joely Andrews played in down the right and pull back the ball for Magill, who lost her footing before getting back to her feet and poking a shot inside the far post.

However, the referee ruled Magill had handled while on the ground and chalked it off despite the home side’s protests.

Shona Zammit managed a rare shot for Malta just past the post early in the second period before Magill appeared to be tripped in the box, but again the referee ruled against Northern Ireland.

Connie Scofield, who played for England at age group level, came on for her debut as time began to run out, and Northern Ireland’s last opportunity saw Chloe McCarron’s long-range shot well saved by Malta keeper Janice Xuereb.

Oxtoby’s side will have to regroup before Tuesday’s second qualifier in Bosnia-Herzegovina.