by Holly Wright (16/11/22)
Above: The ultimate team in women’s international football at the moment? England come together after their final game of 2022 against Norway. Photo: Lionesses
England played their final match of 2022 in Spain against a Norway side now coached by former Lionesses interim manager Hege Riise. The last time the two sides met, England destroyed them 8-0 in a history-making Euro 2022 group match.
However, there was no doubt Sarina Weigman was expecting a very different opponent to the one they faced four months ago with their changed style of play putting more emphasis on their defence.
The Lionesses failed to breakdown Norway’s stubborn backline who came from behind to salvage a draw despite going down to 10 players.
The European Champions’ task of maintaining their unbeaten run wasn’t made easy due to further dropouts from the squad earlier this week. Already without forwards Lauren Hemp and Fran Kirby as well as captain Leah Williamson who all pulled out last week; Lucy Bronze and Lotte Wubben Moy returned to their clubs with minor injuries whilst player of the season Beth Mead pulled out due to family circumstances.
Chelsea midfielder Guro Reiten captained Norway who were without the injured Lyon forward Ada Hegerberg with a leg injury and Caroline Graham Hansen who announced in August that she would take a break from international duty because of cardiac problems.
England Youth Seizing Their Opportunity
The absence of some of the team’s star players gave a great opportunity for the younger players to catch the eye of the Weigman to see where they’re at and how they perform on the international scene. Manchester City forward Jess Park capped off a comfortable performance in the 4-0 win on Friday against Japan after coming off the bench to score within 79 seconds of her debut. Ebony Salmon also impressed providing two assists off the bench.
Weigman gave a first international start to Manchester United’s Maya Le Tissier who scored twice on her WSL debut for Marc Skinner’s side in their 4-0 victory over Reading. Rachel Daly, who has consistently been started at left-back despite playing as a forward for club manager Carla Ward finally got her opportunity in the number nine role to add to her eight goals in ten games for club and country this season. Ellie Roebuck got the nod in goal.
Norway Dangerous on the Counterattack and Stubborn in Defence
England controlled possession from as early as four minutes but Norway showed their threat on the counterattack coming close early on as the Lionesses were guilty of losing possession in the middle Emilie Haavi was denied by Ellie Roebuck at her near post after debutant Maya Le Tissier did enough to close the angle down with a crucial sliding challenge.
Norway were sitting deep with plenty of players behind the ball, although when they attacked they committed players forward but the lack of tempo meant England struggled to find a way to break them down. When Norway got forward, they looked so dangerous. Ellie roebuck was left stranded as Reiten directed a shot goalwards but lucky for the England keeper it went wide of her left post.
The Grasshoppers quickly closed down any sight of goal the Lionesses had from the edge of the box.
Emilie Haavi was a threat all half for Norway. Her crosses from the left-hand side caused England problems but on this occasion, Lisa Naalsunds shot was a poor one.
The only dampener for Norway was the dismissal of Anja Sonstevold. Two yellow cards in just over six minutes neither she can have any complaints about. First was a heavy mis-timed challenge on Nikita Paris then minutes later the same two players were involved as Sonstevold foolishly dragged the United winger back with her away down the right-hand wing.
Complacency on the Ball and Lack of Cutting Edge Up Front
Again, as the story has been on most international breaks England were guilty of being complacent on the ball and if it wasn’t for Millie Bright cutting out a pass straight through the middle, Norway probably would have taken the lead. Despite working hard to win the ball back with 24 minutes gone, England were yet to register a shot on target. It took until the 31 minutes for the first one to occur after a superb bit of skill by Lauren James to beat her marker her shot from distance was straight at the goalkeeper
England ended the half fairly strong as Nikita Parris put pressure on Norway’s back like as they tried to play out from defence.
Le Tissier Shines and Daly Gives Weigman a Selection Dilemma
Le Tissier put in a performance far beyond her years. She was cool and composed on the ball and worked well with fellow United teammate Nikita Parris whilst Rachel Daly’s hold-up play well was superb in the middle of the park allowing the likes of Chloe Kelly and Ella Toone to get up and support.
Probably against the run of play, Daly made the breakthrough after she met a Kelly cross nodding it into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal making it two goals in two games for England in the international break. . She can finish and knows where the goal is. She hadn’t had a sight of goal but then grabs the opener.
Change in Personnel and Tempo
Alex Greenwood was replaced by Alessia Russo at half time meaning that Rachel Daly moved back into right back with Le Tissier moving to the middle of defence alongside Esme Morgan with Niamh Charles remaining at left back.
Weigman wanted higher intensity in the second half. Although they were combining in the attacking areas there was not enough of it to satisfy the England manager although it was probably expected with the no clear indication who will start as the target up front going into next year’s world cup.
Nightmare Mistake for Roebuck After a Solid Performance
Sophie Haug took advantage of a mistake at the back and almost poked it beyond Roebuck who made a number of huge saves before greenwood cleared with Haug ready to pounce on the rebound.
Roebuck next denied Reiten as rash decisions in the defensive third saw England create their own problems. Her free kick was curled towards the left corner with roebuck diving across to push it behind.
Then out of nowhere came a major lapse in concentration and the ball was in the back of the net. Roebuck ran out of her box to clear a hopeful long ball but completely missed it allowing Arsenal midfield Maanum an open goal to tap into.
The group has proven what a dominant force they are going to be going into next year’s World Cup and on current form they will be considered one if not the favourite for next year’s tournament.
Played 20. Won 16. Drawn 4. Lost 0. Scored 72. Conceded 7. Won the Euros, Arnold Clark Cup and qualified for the World Cup with a 100% record having not conceded a goal.