As has been the case in recent games, England
began the match well and with only four minutes gone on the clock they
should have scored.
Stewart Downing made a fine break down the left and whipped in a
superb cross for the marauding Andy Carroll to power in a fierce
header. He only had to hit
the target to score a certain goal, but his header flew wide with the
keeper beaten. But if that
was promising, then four minutes later the new manager was celebrating
his first goal. Carroll
and Ashley Young combined and Young held possession as he moved
forward through the inside-left channel.
Brede Hangeland tried to jockey him away from goal but a quick
turn and a shimmy left Young clear of the big defender and his
left-foot finish into the far corner was of the highest quality.
It was a magnificent goal and Young's fourth in his last four
Norway had their first chance on 11 minutes when
Markus Henriksen fired in a shot that Rob Green scrambled around a
post. Then from the
resultant corner Green was almost embarrassed by Morten Gamst
Pederson's corner which struck a post as it curled in towards goal
with Green nowhere. The
goalkeeper was lucky with that one but as the game wore on he was
assured and confident in all that he did, and all in all laid a few
ghosts to rest with his steady performance.
In the main England were in control throughout
the half. Joleon Lescott
had a fine game at the heart of the defence and he was ably backed up
by the rest of the back four.
Phil Jones, especially, was full of energy and enthusiasm and
he not only defended well but supported the attack too.
He combined well on one occasion with James Milner and then
Young volleyed over after more good work by Jones, Milner and Carroll.
Norway's build up was methodical but also a bit
laboured, giving England time to organise at the back.
And their midfield, with Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard
working hard, was able to snuff out any threat from the home side.
Daniel Braaten did head one half-chance over and a dangerous
cross from John Arne Riise had to be hacked away by Phil Jagielka.
Gerrard was struggling with his passing and England, generally,
gave the ball away a little too cheaply at times, something that
Hodgson will want to address.
On 26 minutes another good cross by Downing
caused Norway's defence problems and a minute later another good
England break should have brought them another goal.
Young was all alone in the middle as Carroll broke down the
right. All it needed was a
square pass to his feet, but Carroll overhit the pass and the chance
went begging. Leighton
Baines made one good break down the left and forced a corner and then
shortly after Jones crossed from the right but goalkeeper Rune
Jarstein intercepted. On
33 minutes yet another good attack saw Milner attack down the right.
He cleverly cut inside the defender and fired in a good
left-foot shot, but again Jarstein managed to block the shot.
The only danger coming from the home side was
mainly through the mistakes by England, and one unforced error gave
Mohammed Abdellaoue the chance to hit a shot wide.
The habit of giving the ball away with sloppy passing was
affecting both teams and the final ten minutes of the half was a
At half-time Gerrard went off and Gareth Barry
came on, and a minute into the half Young was fouled right on the edge
of the box. Milner and
Baines lined the ball up and it was Baines who fired in a good dipping
shot. Jarstein did well to
get across and tip the ball away.
Yet another England chance came on 48 minutes when Jones picked
the ball up in his own half and attacked the Norwegian penalty box.
None of the defenders came to him so he fired in a 20 yard shot
which took a deflection and struck the post with the keeper beaten
again. Riise then
retaliated with a shot that Green got everything behind and both Jones
and Carroll defended well as Norway tried to come back.
Theo Walcott came on for Parker, who was
struggling for match fitness after his recent injury, and with both
Parker and Gerrard now taken out of the side, the England midfield
struggled to regain their grip on the game.
To make matters worse, it was clear that Barry was also not
fit, and he eventually signalled to the bench that his groin was
Just after the hour Riise, Norway's best player,
easily beat Walcott on the left and fired in a fierce shot at the near
Green did his job and the keeper can be pleased with his game on this
night. But by this time
England were showing signs of fatigue and Norway came forward at every
opportunity. It seemed
only a matter of time before Norway scored, but Lescott and Jagielka
held firm and to be fair there were no serious alarms on Green's goal.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then made his debut when
he replaced goalscorer Young and Jordan Henderson came on for Barry.
Later further changes saw Adam Johnson come on for Downing and
Martin Kelly also made a debutant appearance when he replaced the
England had the best of the chances throughout
and even right at the end of added time Johnson fired in a shot that
required yet another save from Jarstein.
When England last won in Norway, in 1966, it was
a month before that memorable 1966 World Cup victory.
The final of the Euro 2012 tournament is scheduled for one
month's time. Surely it
can't be possible.... Can it?