UEFA Euro 2017 Qualifier - Norway 2-2 Austria: Joint-leaders in Group 8 draw

Nothing could separate the top two in Oslo.

UEFA Euro 2017 Qualifier - Norway 2-2 Austria: Joint-leaders in Group 8 draw
Norway and Austria shared the spoils in Oslo. (Photo: @marienborg)
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Norway: Hjelmseth; Wold, Lund, Tornter, Mjelde (C), Herlovsen, Holstad Berge, Ada Hegerberg, Thorsnes, Mykjaland, Minde.
Austria : Zinsbergeg; Schiechtl, Wenninger, Prohaska, Zadrazil, Burger, Schnaderbeck (C), Billa, Puntigam, Feiersinger, Aschauer.
SCORE: 0-1, min.13, Burger. 1-1, min.23, Mjelde. 2-1, min.56 Herlovsen. 2-2, min.85 Feiersinger.
REFEREE: Reim Hussein (GER).

On a sunny evening in Oslo, Norway and Austria shared spoils in a 2-2 draw which leaves both teams joint-leaders at the top of Euro 2017 qualifying Group 8.

However, while Austria have two fixtures left, Norway have a game in hand which can have the role of a game changer in regards their qualification discourse. 

Fresh from her first European glory, Ada Hegerberg had a lot of expectations on her shoulders and she put up a brave performance against a resilient Austrian back line, although she could not list her name on the score sheet.

On the other hand, aware of Norway's game in hand, it was crucial for Austria to take something from this encounter to remain in the race for the first place, and they did that.

Nothing to separate them in the first half 

Norway kicked off the match in an aggressive way as they immediately tried to penetrate Austria's back line, seeking an early lead which would put them in the driving seat. However, they found an Austrian team well prepared and tactically disciplined, making it difficult for the hosts to create any goal-scoring opportunities.

Norway had almost forged ahead when Hegerberg chested the ball into the net, however the goal was disallowed for offside.

Surprisingly enough, it was the away side who took the lead. Verena Aschauer grabbed the ball in the midfield, delivered a through ball which seemed pretty easy for the Norwegian back line to control, but a shocking miskick from Nora Holstad Berge paved the way for Nina Burger, who in front of Ingrid Hjelmseth did not hesitate to put Austria in front.

From then on, Austria seemed more in control of the match until the hosts replied with a stunning strike from outside the box from skipper Maren Mjelde to level terms. Hegerberg almost doubled the lead a few minutes later when, after dazzling her opponent in the box, she fired a low drive, but it was parried by Manuela Zinsberger.

Austria were not shy of attacking and Carina Wenninger came close to putting her side back in the lead, but her effort went inches over the bar, to end the first half at 1-1. 

Same story in the second period

Apart from Elise Thorsnes' shot on goal for Norway, the initial minutes of the second half did not produce anything spectacular, with both teams being cautious after an exhaustive first half.

However, Norway showed hunger to find the second goal and they managed to do that on the 56th minute, when Isabell Herlovsen headed home following a cross from the left flank.

As time went by, Norway looked more confident and gave the impression of having the match under control. Austria introduced new players on the field but they could not find the right tone to breakthrough into Norway's defensive line.

On the 80th minute, Burger missed a clear chance as, within yards of Norway's goal, she managed to put the ball over the crossbar. That chance looked to have summarised Austria's match but, five minutes from time, Laura Feiersinger equalised for Austria after Norway's defence was caught having a nap.

Both sides went close to take the lead again the dying minutes but all efforts were in vain, with the match ending in a 2-2 draw, leaving the qualification discourse wide open for both sides. 

Up next for both teams 

Despite letting the three points slip from their hands, Norway still have an advantage over Austria as they have a game in hand.

Their next game is in five days time when they will travel to Wales, with the Welsh still hoping of finishing in the top two positions. Then, Norway will seal their qualifying campaign with a double header at home against group minnows, Kazakhstan and Israel.

On the other hand, Austria have two matches left, with the first one being on 7th June against Israel at home. They will be rounding up their campaign with a stiff test in Wales.