By Tony Leighton in Cyprus. Thursday, 14 February 2008.
Norway 1-2 England Stensland 53 Williams 47, Smith pen 64
Thursday 14 February 2008
A well deserved victory over the World Cup semi-finalists ended England’s two-match trip to Cyprus on a high note as Hope Powell’s team continued the build-up to the resumption of their Euro 2009 qualifying campaign in fine style.
Fara Williams scored the opening goal as England defeated Norway
Two days after matching Sweden in all but the goalscoring department, the Swedes running out 2-0 winners, England found their scoring touch to overcome the Norwegians through a Fara Williams header and a Kelly Smith penalty.
Victory could have been by a wider margin but for some off-target finishing and good saves by Norway goalkeeper Christine Nilsen. But National Coach Powell was more than satisfied with her team’s performance and result.
“It was a very competitive game,” said Powell, “with the momentum going back and forth. But we were diligent, we worked really hard and it was a very good collective performance by the girls.
“We’ve beaten a world class team who are in the top five of the Fifa rankings, and although I wouldn’t say we outplayed them I felt we were worthy winners of an excellent game and a very tough test for us.”
Powell had made just one change to her team’s starting line-up, Lianne Sanderson coming in to lead the attack with Kelly Smith stepping back into her usual role just behind the front line and midfielder Jill Scott dropping to the substitutes’ bench.
Smith had the first goalscoring opportunity of the match, but as she met right-winger Karen Carney’s cleverly flighted fourth- minute free-kick at the far post the striker miscued her volley well wide.
England continued probing, but some neat approach play failed to produce any further early chances and it was at the other end where Siobhan Chamberlain had to make the game’s first save, a diving stop from Solveig Gulbrandsen’s 23rd-minute effort.
Seven minutes later England should have taken the lead. But, after an excellent link-up between right-back Alex Scott and Sanderson, Carney missed a headed opportunity from just two yards' range as Scott’s cross landed at the far post.
England got well on top towards the interval and after Scott’s 20-yard shot had been saved by keeper Nilsen in the 43rd minute, another great chance went begging as play moved into first-half stoppage time.
A sweeping move led to Smith taking possession on the right hand side of the penalty area, from where she arrowed a pass to the feet of Sanderson four yards from goal – only for the striker to shoot straight at Nilsen.
The goal England’s play had warranted arrived two minutes after the break and it came from another fine move, this one started by midfielder Anita Asante’s tremendous cross-field pass to the overlapping Scott.
The full-back found left-winger Rachel Yankey, who had swapped flanks with Carney, and from Yankey’s looping cross Williams rose to send a downward header just inside the near post.
Smith put a 20-yard shot over the bar as England looked to increase their lead, but against the run of play Norway got a 53rd-minute equaliser when midfielder Ingvild Stensland’s 30-yard lob caught Chamberlain off her line and the ball dropped under the bar.
The Norwegians almost went ahead four minutes later, central defender Runa Vikestad beating Chamberlain with a close-range shot at the near post but captain Faye White blocked the ball on the line.
England regained the lead in the 64th minute, Smith scoring from the penalty mark after Carney had been tripped by Nilsen. The keeper had denied Carney a clear goalscoring opportunity but was not even cautioned, let alone sent off, by a referee who had earlier booked Carney and was later to yellow-card Yankey – both for dissent.
The Norwegians were thankful for Nilsen’s reprieve as first she touched Yankey’s 25-yard drive on to the bar in the 74th minute then, two minutes later, spectacularly tipped over the top a 20-yard rocket from Smith.
By this time a change in the England goal had seen substitute Kay Hawke take over from Chamberlain, the Lincoln City keeper’s 73rd-minute introduction giving her an England debut that eased her on to the international stage with no scares whatsoever.
It was job done at the end of an encouraging 90 minutes for England, though Powell stressed: “The most important thing about this trip was the preparation it gave us for the Euro qualifiers coming up – now we have to take this form into those games.”
Powell’s team, who top their qualifying group with maximum points from three matches, head back into Euro action with an away game against Northern Ireland on March 6 and a meeting with the Czech Republic at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium 14 days later.
Norway : Nilsen; Nordby, Vikestad, Horpestad, Folstad; Knutsen, Stensland, Storlokken; Lie, Gulbrandsen, Wiik.
Substitutes not used: Hjelmseth, Herlovsen, Giske, Lindblom.
England: Chamberlain (Chelsea) (sub Hawke (Lincoln City) 73); A Scott (Arsenal), White (Arsenal), Phillip (Arsenal), Stoney (Chelsea); Asante (Arsenal), Williams (Everton); K Smith (Arsenal); Carney (Arsenal), Sanderson (Arsenal) (sub Aluko (Chelsea) 73), Yankey (Arsenal).
Substitutes not used: J Scott (Everton), Bassett (Birmingham City), Johnson (Everton), Unitt (Everton), Westwood (Everton), Handley (Everton), S Smith (Leeds United)
Referee: Ms Sophia Karagiorgi (Cyprus)
Williams 47, Smith pen 64