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 last16 of the Women’s World Cup last month – had travelled with confidence after upsetting Group A3 top seeds Germany on Friday.
Former Chelsea forward Pernille Harder (right) scored a hat-trick for the Danes
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 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.
Republic of Ireland impressive in Hungary win under interim boss Gleeson
Kyra Carusa scored Ireland’s third goal in Budapest
The Republic of Ireland continued to impress under interim manager Eileen Gleeson as they brushed Hungary aside 4-0 in their second Women’s Nations League match in Budapest.
Goals from Caitlin Hayes, Katie McCabe, Kyra Carusa and Denise O’Sullivan proved enough for the visitors to build on their historic 3-0 win over Northern Ireland at the weekend.
It was another superb display under Gleeson, who had nevertheless appeared to rule herself out of the running to replace former boss Vera Pauw in the pre-match build-up.
The Republic started well in what looked to be their toughest Group B test, a Heather Payne cross clipping the top of the bar before both Payne again and Carusa had chances.
Hayes, making her second start, opened the scoring in the 18th minute when she converted a superb cross from McCabe by nodding home from close range.
Arsenal star McCabe continued to impress and she doubled the Irish advantage in style four minutes before the interval, when she pounced on a half-cleared effort by whipping the ball home from 25 yards.
Gleeson’s side continued to dominate after the interval with Carusa heading home a fine cross from Payne to make it 3-0 after 49 minutes.
Carusa came close again then it was Hayes’ turn to strike the top of the bar before Carusa turned the ball back for O’Sullivan to fire into the bottom corner with 70 minutes gone.
Irish ‘keeper Courtney Brosnan was called into action twice in the last 20 minutes but maintained her clean sheet as Gleeson’s side cruised home to a second consecutive impressive win.
Northern Ireland edge Albania to record first win
Lauren Wade (left) scored Northern Ireland’s winner
Captain Lauren Wade hit the only goal of the game as Northern Ireland beat Albania to record their first win in the Women’s Nations League.
Having lost to the Republic of Ireland in their League B Group 1 opener, Wade struck on the occasion of her 50th cap to secure a 1-0 victory at Seaview.
Reading winger Wade was on hand to turn home from close range on 57 minutes after Albania goalkeeper Viona Rexhepi had pushed away a Nadene Caldwell effort.
The home side dominated throughout the contest and racked up 21 shots to just the four mustered up by Albania, the narrow win now leaving Tanya Oxtoby’s side second in the group after two games.