Guro Reiten seals victory as Norway pushes Northern Ireland aside | Euro 2022 Women


Northern Ireland had a rough start to their first major tournament, as they were emphatically defeated by Norway in their Group A match in Southampton. Martin Sjogren’s team rose to the top of the group on goal difference, dropping England from first place after their 1-0 win over Austria on Wednesday.

“It was a relief after the last European Championship, it was a disaster for us. We didn’t even score [in 2017]’ said player of the match Caroline Graham Hansen. “To be able to bounce back and get off to a good start, it was important for everyone. I think everyone who was there in 2017 felt the relief when we scored the first goal.” Graham Hansen showed early on that Northern Ireland was going to have a tough night, beating several defenders to run half the pitch and Guro Reiten, whose effort went over the bar, and the chances kept coming with shots from Frida Maanum and Ada Hegerberg.

Northern Ireland needed a defensive stronghold to try and get a point, but it wasn’t long before Norway scored. In the tenth minute the ball was well cleared to Julie Blakstad, who cut it in the bottom left corner. Northern Ireland seemed to be able to hit back quickly, but Rachel Furness’ long-distance effort came to naught and the team’s night went from bad to worse.

A defensive horror show allowed Maanum to strike. Goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns played a short ball to Chloe McCarron but it got in Hegerberg’s path. The Lyon forward tapped a pass to Arsenal’s Maanum, which doubled their lead. Maanum kept alive with another thunderous goal that went just wide and won a corner. Hegerberg came close with a header but it wasn’t long before they had their third.

The VAR was deployed as Nadene Caldwell appeared to act when defending a corner. Referee Lina Lehtovaara awarded a penalty after a review and Graham Hansen made no mistake to put Norway at 3-0.

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels disagreed with the call, saying in his post-match press conference: “The Nordic referee, who refereed a match involving a Nordic team, gave a penalty. I’m not saying for a minute that it’s because she was the referee, I’m just saying those statistics were there. I don’t think it’s appropriate [for a Finnish referee to take charge of a Norway match]† I don’t blame her for the defeat, but I don’t think we should talk too much about it because it’s an afterthought.”

Simone Magill had Northern Ireland’s best chance of the half, but her rushed long-range shot grazed the billboards. The loudest roar of the evening came just after the break when Norway failed to clear and Julie Nelson headed towards the goal. Goalkeeper Guro Pettersen couldn’t prevent the ball from rolling over the line to give the Shiels side their first goal in the big tournament.

Julie Nelson (5) from Northern Ireland scores a goal and beats Guro Pettersen (1) from Norway, who can't stop the ball over the goal line.
Julie Nelson (left) of Northern Ireland concedes a goal early in the second half. Photo: Graham Hunt/ProSports/Shutterstock

Another defensive miscommunication for Northern Ireland nearly wiped out their good work, but Abbie Magee made an impressive throw from the line. However, Norway was not deterred by the kickback and Reiten scored a screeching free kick.

The Chelsea playmaker has scored wonder goals for her club all season, so this topper should have come as no surprise to WSL fans. The next move saw Hegerberg appeal for a penalty when Magee wrestled her to the ground, but nothing was given. The leading Champions League scorer thought she had finally scored in the 68th minute when she tapped in a pass from Reiten, but it was disallowed.

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Women's football graphic Moving the Goalposts
Illustration: Guardian design

In heartbreaking scenes, Magill, who recently signed for Aston Villa, stumbled away in tears. A horrific end to her match and set for the rest of the Northern Ireland campaign.

Shiels revealed after the game that he is concerned about Magill, who he believes would not be playing in their next match against Austria, adding: “It’s her knee. I’m a football coach, not a doctor, but it doesn’t sound very good.” There was also cause for concern for Hegerberg when captain Sarah McFadden chopped her down, but she was quickly back on her feet.

Burns was able to save even more Northern Ireland blushes with three great saves in the closing stages. But it was Norway night and they have put down a gauntlet in this tournament. Sarina Wiegman’s side will have a battle on their hands when they face them on Monday.

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