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Canada fight back to end ‘proud’ Ireland’s World Cup dreams

Manchester United forward Adriana Leon ignited Canada’s Women’s World Cup campaign on Wednesday with the winner in a 2-1 victory to end Ireland’s hopes.

The pressure was on Olympic champions Canada after being held to a goalless draw against Nigeria but they fought back in Perth after the worst start possible.

They were left stunned in the fourth minute when Arsenal midfielder Katie McCabe scored direct from a corner, much to the delight of the 17,065 fans, most of whom were loudly cheering for Ireland in the rain.

But Canada clawed back through an own goal from Megan Connolly just before half-time before Leon provided the winner in the 53rd minute.

Canada moved top of Group B with four points and took a step closer to the last 16, with Australia facing Nigeria in Brisbane on Thursday in the group.

“That could be the making of us,” Canada coach Bev Priestman said.

“We wobbled in the first-half. Our bravery wasn’t there. I felt we played a little scared… I reminded them at half-time that we are Olympic champions.”

In a concern for Canada ahead of their next match against Australia, captain Christine Sinclair — who had come on as a second-half substitute — appeared to be limping late in the contest.

“I haven’t had a medical update yet. I’ll have to get an understanding of that and find out what’s next,” Priestman said.

The result ended Ireland’s hopes of progressing on their World Cup debut.

“Very, very disappointing we couldn’t get back in the game after going down 2-1,” coach Vera Pauw said.

“But I’m so proud of what we showed tonight.”

– McCabe stunner –

Canada were boosted by the return of Chelsea midfielder Jessie Fleming after a calf injury and she took the captain’s armband from Sinclair.

Evelyne Viens was preferred in attack after sparking Canada as a substitute against Nigeria.

Ireland were forced into a late change when Florida State forward Heather Payne suffered a hamstring injury during the warm-up and was replaced by Aine O’Gorman.

With their tournament hopes on the line, an aggressive Ireland ran Canada ragged in a spirited start.

They had goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan scrambling in the third minute when a cross from Lucy Quinn was almost met by Kyra Carusa.

McCabe scored on the subsequent corner with her vicious left-footed in-swinger bamboozling Sheridan, whose outstretched fingers only managed to deflect the ball onto the right post and into the net.

McCabe tried something similar against Australia without success in their 1-0 opening defeat, but after spotting Sheridan slightly off her line she made no mistake this time.

Canada had their first clear opportunity on the half hour, but Vanessa Gilles missed from close range after being on the end of a clever flick from Kadeisha Buchanan.

As the rain cascaded down in Perth, Canada’s persistance was rewarded just before half-time when a cross from Julia Grosso on the left side deflected off Connolly for an own goal.

Priestman made three changes to start the second-half, including bringing on Sinclair, and it did the trick with Canada playing with more intent.

They went ahead when a superb through ball from Sophie Schmidt found Leon, who fired past goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan.