In a pleasantly even contest, it took Norway’s young talisman Ada Hegerberg to finally wear a firm Wales defence down, her second-half brace enough to take the home side out of the running for Euro 2017 qualification.
Following Austria’s hard fought draw with Norway, Wales came into the game knowing that they needed to take something from it to keep their dreams of a place in Holland alive but they faced a stern test in Norway, who’d run out comfortable 4-0 winners in the reverse fixture.
Despite the 25 ranking places between the two sides – Norway currently 11 and Wales, 36 in the FIFA World rankings – the two teams played an even game, Ada Hegerberg and Jess Fishlock the danger women for their respective teams.
Norway started brightly, a technically astute team moving the ball around with ease, but Wales didn’t take long to settle into the game, defenders staying firm at the back, shielding 19 year-old Claire Skinner on her debut. But the young 'keeper was more than capable of defending her goal, making a number of smart stops throughout the match.
The best chance of the first half fell to Cardiff City defender Gemma Evans who saw her curling free-kick skim just over the top of the bar. But the two sides cancelled each other out for the most part, one counter-attack being broken into another as the ball constantly changed direction.
It was easy to see Norway opening the scoring, because although Wales were staunchly defending, the Grasshoppers were more than capable of pulling a moment of brilliance out of the bag. But that wasn’t to discredit the Dragons who looked deadliest at set-pieces, with Angharad James whipping dangerous balls into the mix.
Hegerberg's time to shine
The second-half continued in the same vein as the first, chances and half chances created at both ends of the pitch as one team pinched the ball off of the other and made a break. As the game moved past the hour mark it got more and more stretched, Wales beginning to visibly tire, gifting Hegerberg acres of green green grass.
Kayleigh Green came within inches of opening the scoring with a sublime effort from just outside the area that looped up and came crashing down to earth, but it could only leave a dent in the bar before bouncing behind.
Instead, the deadlock was finally broken with just 20 minutes left at the other end. Marit Sandvei tore down the left flank after a good passage of play from the hosts, before dinking a deep cross to the back-post for Hegerberg to nod past Skinner with the slightest flick of her neck muscles.
As the Dragons pushed for an equaliser the defending got more lax, meaning more and more space for Hegerberg. With Wales tempting her to shoot on sight, the prolific Lyon striker more than happily obliged as she completed her brace. As space opened up in front of her, she pulled the ball across goal to the far corner - Skinner on her toes to shimmy across but unable to reach the curling effort that punched against the back of the net.
It was far from a routine win for a team that has spent most of their life as one of the top 10 in the world, however, at the end of the day Norway were technically and tactically too good for Wales.
Jayne Ludlow will take heart from the match. Although Wales’ dreams of a spot at Euro 2017 are gone, her side has already come along leaps and bounds in this qualifying campaign, and seeing more of her players tied down to full time contracts in FAWSL will only help strengthen her team and make them more competitive on the world stage.
A loss but a loss full of positives, the future is already looking hopeful for the Dragons who easily could have taken something from this encounter.