Norway starts women’s euro bid by leading Northern Ireland

SOUTHAMPTON (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Norway clinched a 4-1 win over defeated Northern Ireland in their opener to Women’s Euro 2022 on Thursday.

Julie Blakstad and Frida Maanum gave Norway the perfect start with goals within the first 13 minutes at Southampton.

Caroline Graham Hansen’s penalty put the two-time European champions on course to ruin the debut of the major women’s tournament in Northern Ireland.

Julie Nelson, Northern Ireland’s most-seeded player, briefly hinted at an unlikely comeback from the lowest-ranked nation in the competition just after the break.

But Guro Reit’s free-kick sealed a convincing win for Martin Sjögren’s side, who drew level with hosts England at the top of Group A by three points.

After the attendance of 68,871 at Old Trafford on Wednesday as England beat Austria, came a more modest attendance of 9,146 at St Mary’s.

Norway, winners of this competition in 1987 and 1993, twice beat their opponents 6-0 in qualifying and quickly regained control.

Manchester City midfielder Blakstad clinched the opener in the 10th minute by beating goalkeeper Jackie Burns with a low left-footed shot at the near post.

Arsenal’s Maanum doubled the lead three minutes later.

She disowned Chloe McCarron just short of Northern Ireland and was put into an unguarded net with an easy finish after recovering the ball from Ada Hegerberg.

Northern Ireland contributed to their own downfall as the game effectively ended as a contest in the 31st minute.

VAR intervened after Nadene Caldwell inexplicably handled the ball inside her own penalty area after a sharp corner, allowing impressive Barcelona star Hansen to set the penalty.

Four minutes into the second half, Rachel Furness smashed the ball back across the box after Norway botched a corner and 37-year-old centre-back Nelson nodded across the line.

Norway quickly ended any hopes of a shock comeback as Chelsea winger Reite restored the three-goal lead and caught up with Burns with a low free-kick from 20 yards.

Northern Ireland will try to recover on Monday when Austria visits St Mary’s while Norway travels along the south coast for the showdown with England in Brighton.

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