Women's European Championship - Group A
NorwayNorway4Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland1

Euro 2022: Julie Nelson makes history as Northern Ireland lose to Norway on debut

By Andy GrayBBC Sport NI at St Mary's

Northern Ireland's historic debut at a major tournament ended in a 4-1 defeat by a ruthless Norway side in their Euro 2022 opener at St Mary's.

Norway underlined their status as dark horses for the tournament with a clinical first-half showing, which highlighted the gap between a world-class outfit and a Northern Ireland team ranked 47th in the world who only became full-time in January, as Julie Blakstad, Frida Maanum and Caroline Graham Hansen all netted.

The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Julie Nelson, who made history as Northern Ireland's first goalscorer on the European stage when her header crept over the line on 49 minutes to give Kenny Shiels' side hope.

It was a fitting that Nelson was the player to have that moment as the 37-year-old defender was one of the original players when Northern Ireland's senior women's team reformed in 2004 after being disbanded at the turn of the century.

However, Guro Reiten curled home a low free-kick five minutes later to restore the three-goal lead and round out what, ultimately, was a comfortable Group A victory.

The right player for Northern Ireland's big moment

'Such a proud moment' - Julie Nelson on historic goal for Northern Ireland

Nelson's header will be remembered as the goal which really put Northern Ireland on the big stage.

It came after Norway failed to deal with a corner, which allowed Rachel Furness to lash the ball back across the face of goal, and the unmarked Nelson, who plays for Women's Premiership club Crusaders Strikers, was able to generate enough power in her header to get the ball across the line.

On top of being the first player to score for Northern Ireland, she also became the oldest player to score at the women's Euros at the age of 37 and 33 days, surpassing Patrizia Panico by nearly three years.

Her moment in the sun, which will now go down in the pantheon of great Northern Ireland goals such as Gareth McAuley's header at Euro 2016 or David Healy's winner against England in 2005, came after a professional first-half performance by in front of a crowd of 9,146 in Southampton.

Northern Ireland, whose achievement to getting to the Euros for the first time was considered the ultimate underdog story given their part-time status, faced a huge task against a Norway side filled with world-class talent.

Shiels' side settled well despite the initial absence of captain Marissa Callaghan, who could only start on the bench as she came back from a toe injury, but stand-in skipper Sarah McFadden pulled off a superb block to deny the returning Ada Hegerberg, who was back at a major tournament after quitting the national team in 2017 in protest of a perceived lack of respect for female players.

However, their strong start was undone in the 10th minute when Blakstad arrowed low past Jackie Burns after being afforded too much time on the left side of the area.

Rachel Furness fired an effort off target before, in a flash, Norway were two up when Chloe McCarron was caught in possession in midfield by Maanum, and the midfielder darted into the area to receive the return pass from Hegerberg to tap Norway home.

Abbie Magee pulled off the first of three goal-saving clearances to deny Maanum before Burns produced two brilliant saves, first to deny Amalie Eikeland from close range and then to tip Maanum's low drive wide moments later.

Hegerberg should have scored but her back-post header drifted wide and, after Lauren Wade's low effort was off target, the Lyon striker was denied when Magee pulled off another stunning block at close range when a goal looked certain.

Norway were handed the chance to make it three in the 31st minute as Nadene Caldwell was penalised for handball following a VAR check, and Graham Hansen, the best player on the pitch in the first half, converted from 12 yards.

Despite the scoreline Northern Ireland always looked to push forward when possible and Simone Magill curled an effort just wide, and Norway ended the half with Graham Hansen forcing Burns into a strong save.

Pride with battling performance

Ada Hegerberg returned to tournament football with Norway for the first time in five years
Ada Hegerberg (left) returned to tournament football with Norway for the first time in five years

Callaghan was introduced at half-time as Shiels changed things up and the travelling Northern Ireland support, who had not stopped singing despite the scoreline, got the goal they had craved when Nelson headed home, sparking wild celebrations.

But any hope of a comeback was ended when Reiten curled home a low free-kick on the edge of the area five minutes later.

Much was made of Hegerberg's return but her frustrating night continued when she had a penalty appeal waved away after coming together with Magee, and the 26-year-old had an effort ruled out for offside moments later which left the striker with a wry smile on her face.

Magee's third goaline clearance of the night again came at the expense of Hegerberg, and Karina Sarvik should have done better with two efforts either side of a concerning injury to key striker Magill, who headed straight down the tunnel following a collision.

While Northern Ireland began their campaign with a defeat, it was a night to remember and lived up to the billing of the historic occasion.

When the full-time whistle went, there were smiles on the faces of players as they interacted with their families, and in return the Green and White Army gave them a standing ovation for their efforts against the classy Norway team, who had beaten Northern Ireland 6-0 in Shiels' first game in charge in August 2019.

The performance will give Shiels hope they can pull of a shock against Austria on Monday, who they faced twice in World Cup qualifying over the past 12 months, while Norway will face England in a game that is likely to decide top spot in Group A.

Player of the match

ReitenGuro Reiten

with an average of 7.32

Norway

  1. Squad number11Player nameReiten
    Average rating

    7.32

  2. Squad number10Player nameHansen
    Average rating

    7.12

  3. Squad number17Player nameBlakstad
    Average rating

    6.76

  4. Squad number14Player nameHegerberg
    Average rating

    6.76

  5. Squad number7Player nameEngen
    Average rating

    6.69

  6. Squad number18Player nameMaanum
    Average rating

    6.60

  7. Squad number6Player nameMjelde
    Average rating

    6.42

  8. Squad number15Player nameEikeland
    Average rating

    6.34

  9. Squad number3Player nameThorisdóttir
    Average rating

    6.22

  10. Squad number2Player nameSønstevold
    Average rating

    6.08

  11. Squad number4Player nameHansen
    Average rating

    6.07

  12. Squad number9Player nameSævik
    Average rating

    5.94

  13. Squad number1Player namePettersen
    Average rating

    5.93

  14. Squad number8Player nameRisa
    Average rating

    5.92

  15. Squad number5Player nameBergsvand
    Average rating

    5.80

  16. Squad number21Player nameJøsendal
    Average rating

    5.55

Northern Ireland

  1. Squad number22Player nameMagee
    Average rating

    5.32

  2. Squad number1Player nameBurns
    Average rating

    5.06

  3. Squad number5Player nameNelson
    Average rating

    4.80

  4. Squad number21Player nameMcGuinness
    Average rating

    4.74

  5. Squad number9Player nameMagill
    Average rating

    4.61

  6. Squad number10Player nameFurness
    Average rating

    4.61

  7. Squad number3Player nameVance
    Average rating

    4.58

  8. Squad number11Player nameMcGuinness
    Average rating

    4.54

  9. Squad number8Player nameCallaghan
    Average rating

    4.49

  10. Squad number14Player nameWade
    Average rating

    4.46

  11. Squad number4Player nameRobson
    Average rating

    4.41

  12. Squad number16Player nameCaldwell
    Average rating

    4.33

  13. Squad number15Player nameHolloway
    Average rating

    4.29

  14. Squad number13Player nameBurrows
    Average rating

    4.27

  15. Squad number19Player nameWilson
    Average rating

    4.24

  16. Squad number7Player nameMcCarron
    Average rating

    4.12

Line-ups

Norway

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Pettersen
  • 2SønstevoldSubstituted forHansenat 65'minutes
  • 6MjeldeSubstituted forBergsvandat 81'minutes
  • 3Thorisdóttir
  • 17BlakstadSubstituted forJøsendalat 89'minutes
  • 18MaanumSubstituted forRisaat 65'minutes
  • 7Engen
  • 15EikelandSubstituted forSævikat 65'minutes
  • 10Hansen
  • 11Reiten
  • 14Hegerberg

Substitutes

  • 4Hansen
  • 5Bergsvand
  • 8Risa
  • 9Sævik
  • 12Skoglund
  • 13Ildhusøy
  • 16Bjelde
  • 19Terland
  • 20Skinnes Hansen
  • 21Jøsendal
  • 22Haug
  • 23Mikalsen

Northern Ireland

Formation 3-4-3

  • 1Burns
  • 5Nelson
  • 4RobsonBooked at 53mins
  • 13BurrowsSubstituted forHollowayat 65'minutes
  • 22Magee
  • 16CaldwellSubstituted forCallaghanat 45'minutes
  • 7McCarron
  • 3Vance
  • 14WadeSubstituted forWilsonat 80'minutes
  • 10FurnessSubstituted forMcGuinnessat 74'minutes
  • 9MagillSubstituted forMcGuinnessat 79'minutes

Substitutes

  • 2McKenna
  • 6Hutton
  • 8Callaghan
  • 11McGuinness
  • 12Flaherty
  • 15Holloway
  • 17Rafferty
  • 18McDaniel
  • 19Wilson
  • 20Andrews
  • 21McGuinness
  • 23Turner
Referee:
Lina Lehtovaara
Attendance:
9,146

Match Stats

Home TeamNorwayAway TeamNorthern Ireland
Possession
Home65%
Away35%
Shots
Home21
Away7
Shots on Target
Home11
Away2
Corners
Home9
Away1
Fouls
Home5
Away5

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Norway 4, Northern Ireland Women 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Norway 4, Northern Ireland Women 1.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Caroline Hansen (Norway) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Karina Sævik.

  4. Post update

    Corner, Norway. Conceded by Abbie Magee.

  5. Post update

    Attempt missed. Guro Reiten (Norway) right footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right.

  6. Substitution

    Substitution, Norway. Anna Jøsendal replaces Julie Blakstad.

  7. Post update

    Ada Hegerberg (Norway) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Sarah Robson (Northern Ireland Women).

  9. Post update

    Guro Reiten (Norway) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Caitlin McGuinness (Northern Ireland Women).

  11. Post update

    Attempt saved. Karina Sævik (Norway) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

  12. Substitution

    Substitution, Norway. Guro Bergsvand replaces Maren Mjelde.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland Women. Emily Wilson replaces Lauren Wade.

  14. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland Women. Caitlin McGuinness replaces Simone Magill because of an injury.

  15. Post update

    Attempt missed. Vilde Risa (Norway) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

  16. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland Women. Kirsty McGuinness replaces Rachel Furness.

  17. Post update

    Offside, Northern Ireland Women. Julie Nelson tries a through ball, but Demi Vance is caught offside.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Maria Thorisdóttir (Norway).

  19. Post update

    Simone Magill (Northern Ireland Women) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  20. Post update

    Attempt missed. Karina Sævik (Norway) right footed shot from the right side of the box is too high following a corner.

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