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Norway start Women’s Euro bid by routing Northern Ireland

SOUTHAMPTON (AFP) – Norway eased to a 4-1 win over out-classed Northern Ireland in their Women’s Euro 2022 opener on Thursday.

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

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

Julie Nelson, Northern Ireland’s most-capped female player, gave the competition’s lowest-ranked nation brief hope of an unlikely comeback just after the interval.

But Guro Reiten’s free-kick sealed a convincing success for Martin Sjogren’s side, who moved level on three points with hosts England at the top of Group A.

“I’m very pleased with the first 45 minutes, but then Northern Ireland came back, we got a bit sloppy and we can’t be that in a big tournament because then you will get punished, which is what happened,” Sjogren said. “But we bounced back quite quickly, so I’m very happy with our performance. We could have scored a couple more in the first half.”

Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels added: “We are three years into this programme and it’s going to take 10 years to get us into the top 20 in Europe.

“We have to get real and understand it’s an emerging game in Northern Ireland. We have grown too quickly and we are playing against teams of this ilk, it’s tough. But the experience is brilliant for us.”

Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen challenges for the ball with Northern Ireland’s Abbie Magee. PHOTO: AP