Push and pull
Suggested to be a close contest the game started out fairly even, both teams looking to press onto the front foot from the off, the first real chance came five minutes in as Kristine Minde lashed the ball towards goal. Unable to get her fingertips to it, Siobhan Chamberlain was forced to watch the ball slip beyond her grasp and bounce narrowly wide with Lisa-Marie Utland arriving just too late.
A poor touch from young goalkeeper, Cecilie Fiskerstrand’s misplaced clearance gifted England a corner ten minutes into the game however, Fara Williams’ delivery was just too much for her team mates to make use of. With an open game and both sides looking to press high, there was plenty of opportunities for attackers to go at it but left frustrated, Ada Hegerberg flashed a shot over from outside the area.
Williams’ dinked free kick into the box had both sides scrambling but Nikita Parris’ shot flew wide before the Football Girls had their own set pieces to attack. Andrine Hegerberg’s first delivery was smuggled wide before Chamberlain punched the second cross clear and England looked to break once more, the match slipping back and forth like a restless pendulum.
With the likes of Steph Houghton and Jo Potter in the back three, England were able to use the favoured route one, sending the ball over the midfield and dropping it in the box to a waiting head in the shape of Jodie Taylor or Toni Duggan, Maren Mjelde and Nora Holstad Berg ever vigilant.
The deadlock broken just after the midway point in the first-half as Andrine Hegerberg whipped the ball into the box for her sister to clinically nod beyond an advancing Chamberlain. The best player in the world given the chance to run free of her marker and put the ball away, a good header but a sloppy goal for the Lionesses to concede.
It was almost deja va for England as Andrine Hegerberg sent another free kick in from similar range less than ten minutes later, though her delivery was flat her sister was once again able to get free and into a perfect position. With the ball sent back low, Chamberlain was at full stretch to nudge the ball wide before making a vital save to prevent a goal from Ada, Potter swift to clear the errant ball off of the line. Refused her brace, Ada Hegerberg was quickly taken off – seemingly fine but having gone 90 minutes three days before there was little need for Martin Sjögren to risk one of the stars in the squad.
Better build-up and possession from England saw the visitors given another corner as Lucy Bronze’s snapshot from fifteen yards took a nick before curling just over the bar. With more restrained delivery from the right, Houghton was able to meet the ball at the far post but her header was misplaced and failed to trouble Fiskerstrand.
Life in the Lionesses
A nippy run from Alex Scott with the ball saw England’s best chance immediately after the break, her neat ball into the box just too lively for Jodie Taylor who saw the ball bounce off of her boot before going wide. But Norway proved that both Hegerbergs posed a constant threat to Chamberain’s goal as Andrine’s direct free kick had the Liverpool number one scrambling to parry the ball, Synne Jensen just too far away to capitalise.
Still firing them in from the right, Williams’ first corner of the second-half was a drilled ball to the near post, Fiskerstrand’s gloves not sticky enough as she dropped the first ball before falling on the second to prevent an easy opener. The England centurion’s second corner far tamer as it flew into the side netting.
Certainly brighter in the second-half, England were determined to get back into the game and quicker passing was clearly helping, Duggan’s cute ball through to Ellen White had Fiskerstrand on her toes but the substitute was unable to pull the trigger as Elise Thorsnes nibbled the ball away. With the ball skipping along the turf, England began to knock on the door and minutes later Duggan was unlucky to see her low drive slip the wrong side of the post.
Better going forward but still sleepy at the back, Norway had another chance to double their lead as Ingrid Moe Wold’s cross-cum-shot was turned against the bar by Chamberlain. Synne Jensen’s face as red as her shirt after missing the easy rebound.
Still going forward well but with little to show for it, it became all hands to the pumps for Norway as Mjelde blocked White’s cross before Berg made an aerobatic goal-line clearance from Houghton’s follow up. The ball cleared off the line twice more in quick succession before the keeper was forced to parry Potter’s teasing free kick, Norway defending with aplomb
The last push was just not enough as Norway stood up to everything England could muster.
Given where both sides are in pre-season, Norway’s game under the belt a double-edged sword that could have left a similar starting XI the contest was a fair one, Norway the better in the first-half and England in the second, trying to force the issue. Finishing the game strongly, England knocked and knocked at the door, a battering ram needed as the Grasshoppers blocked and repelled all they could, last gasp from both.
Again, another solid performance from Norway under their new coach, England with plenty of signs of life but still questions yet to be answered.