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Norway too strong for Northern Ireland


Norway 4 (Blakstad 9, Maanum 12, Hansen pen 31, Reiten 53)

Northern Ireland 1 (Nelson 49)

att: 9,146; at the St Mary's Stadium  

Northern Ireland's historic first match in the Finals of a major women's tournament ended in defeat as they were swept away by an impressive Norway side, in which Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten excelled, in Southampton.


Kenny Shiels' side were hit by two goals inside the opening twelve minutes but showed great character for the remainder of the game and stalwart defender Julie Nelson scored early in the second half, whilst goalkeeper Jackie Burns had a fine match.


An early warning for Northern Ireland came as Ada Hegerberg powered her way into the area where Sarah McFadden made a great block, then Caroline Graham Hansen took on three defenders in a right down the run before crossing for Guro Reiten to head over.


Norway's enterprising start brought its reward on nine minutes, Reiten producing a fine reverse pass for the overlapping Julie Blakstad who drilled a low shot past Burns for the opening goal.


Northern Ireland tried to respond with a long range effort from Rachel Furness but disaster struck just minutes later. Once again, a team was caught out when playing out from the back and Frida Maanum stole in to win the ball, Hegerberg tapping aside for Maanum to roll into the empty net.


Burns dived full length to tip a 25-yard Maanum strike around the post and from the following corner, Reiten whipped in a teasing cross for Hegerberg to head wide from close range.


Lauren Wade drove wide after a good run by Abbie Magee, who then produced a brilliant saving challenge at the other end to deny Hegerberg following a flowing Norway move the length of the pitch. The resulting corner then saw Norway awarded a penalty on a VAR decision for handball against Nadene Caldwell, Graham Hansen finding the corner of the net despite the efforts of Burns to make it three.


Simone Magill shot wide after latching onto a pass from Wade to give Northern Ireland encouragement but the half ended with Burns making another good save, palming away an effort from Graham Hansen.


Northern Ireland brought on Marissa Callaghan as a half time substitute and the moment they had waited for came four minutes after the restart. Norway were unable to clear a Demi Vance corner and Rachel Furness played the ball across goal for Julie Nelson to steer a header home from six yards.


Magee made a fine clearance as Hegerberg drove a ball across goal at the other end but the three-goal advantage was soon to be restored. After Graham Hansen had been brought down on the edge of the area, Reiten stepped up to plant her shot inside the far corner.


Northern Ireland were fortunate to escape giving away a second penalty when Magee appeared to shove Hegerberg over in the area and Hegerberg had a goal disallowed for offside against Reiten in the build up.


A worrying moment came as Magill left the pitch with what seemed to be a bad knee injury and the striker looked to be in great pain. Burns was called into again minutes later, pulling off a good save to keep out a shot from Karina Saevik.


Norway therefore move into top position in the group, ahead of England on goal difference, with those two teams meeting next and Northern Ireland will take on Austria.


Norway: Guro Pettersen, Anja Sonstevold (sub Tuva Hansen 65mins), Julie Blakstad (sub Anna Josendal 89mins), Amalie Eikelund (sub Karina Saevik 65mins), Maria Thorisdottir, Maren Mjelde (sub Guro Bergsvand 81mins), Ingrid Syrstad Engen, Frida Maanum (sub Vilde Boe Risa 65mins), Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen, Guro Reiten. Subs not used: Sunniva Skoglund, Aurora Mikalsen, Celin Bizet Ildhusoy, Thea Bjelde, Elisabeth Terland, Synne Hansen, Sophie Haug.


Northern Ireland: Jacqueline Burns, Kelsie Burrows (sub Rebecca Holloway 65mins), Demi Vance, Sarah McFadden, Julie Nelson, Nadene Caldwell (sub Marissa Callaghan 45mins), Chloe McCarron, Lauren Wade (sub Caitlin McGuinness 78mins), Simone Magill (sub Emily Wilson 78mins), Rachel Furness (sub Kirsty McGuinness 73mins), Abbie Magee. Subs not used: Rebecca Flaherty, Shannon Turner, Rebecca McKenna, Ashley Hutton, Laura Rafferty, Louise McDaniel, Joely Andrews.