Maren Mjelde’s Norway secured a FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 quarter-final spot after beating Australia 4-1 on penalties at the Stade de Nice last night.
Norway went into half-time with a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from striker Isabell Herlovsen and could not add to their lead despite a player advantage.
Australia equalised when Elise Kellond-Knight’s corner evaded everyone and found Ingrid Hjelmseth’s bottom corner. The Matilda’s were reduced to 10 in extra-time when Alanna Kennedy pulled Lisa-Marie Utland down.
Norway Captain Maren Mjelde was left chasing shadows inside the opening minutes. Aussie star Sam Kerr, who scored five goals in the group stage, was played through by Caitlin Foord. The striker flicked the ball through the legs of a scrambling Mjelde and should have put Australia ahead but her low drive just missed the near corner.
Mjelde’s centre-back partner and Chelsea teammate Maria Thorisdottir tracked Kerr closely as Hayley Raso darted forward. A lapse in concentration from the Chelsea defender gave Kerr the opportunity to play a quick one-two with Raso, but her effort was comfortably saved. Norway were struggling to contain the pacey Australian captain in the opening stages.
The Matildas fans broke out into rendition of the famous 90’s hit ‘Freed from Desire’, adding their own twist to the song in support of their number 20. ‘Sam Kerr’s on fire’ echoed from a small section of Aussie fans who had been vocal from the first whistle.
Kerr was again at the heart of an Australian attack, but this time Mjelde was equal to it. Renowned for her lightning speed, the world star was favourite to win the ball, the Chelsea defender jockeyed alongside her before making a superb last-ditch tackle to deny a shooting opportunity.
Despite creating little in the first-half, it was Norway who took the lead. From the outset, Martin Sjogren’s side looked set up for the counter attack, should they get the opportunity, and this is what their goal came from. A quick turnaround on the Mjelde challenge saw the ball fall to Karina Saevik. The 23-year-old’s lofted ball found its way to Herlovsen who guided the ball around Lydia Williams for her second goal of the tournament.
VAR was at the forefront of a FIFA Women’s World Cup match and not for the first time. Referee Riem Hussain initially gave a penalty after Chelsea defender Thorisdottir was adjudged to have handled the ball. After a couple of minutes of deliberation, Hussain reversed her decision and indicated a drop ball situation.
New Chelsea midfielder Guro Reiten showed glimpses of her attacking ability at the start of the second half. She stole the ball off of young right-back Ellie Carpenter and burst forward, sending it over to Caroline Graham Hansen who twisted and turned before sending her effort straight at Williams.
Mjelde and Thorisdottir shored up the backline in the second-half leaving Kerr with nothing but scraps to feed off as Ante Milicic’s side searched desperately for an equaliser. The Australian captain was switched out to the wing on a number of occasions as they looked to mix things up. It posed no threat to the Chelsea duo who met every cross with a headed clearance.
Australia grabbed an equaliser in the most peculiar way. Kellond-Knight set herself up for a corner, looking to find one of Australia’s towering players who had swarmed the Norwegian box. The Reign midfielder’s corner evaded everyone and found the bottom corner.
The Grasshoppers almost nicked it at the end of added time. Hansen collected the ball on the edge of the area and sent a ball in looking for substitute Utland. The ball evaded the striker and struck the inside of the post and rolled agonisingly across the line to send the
game into extra-time.
Norway’s chances of making the quarter-finals were given a huge boost at the end of the first period of extra-time. Utland ran onto a through ball and was pulled down by defender Alanna Kennedy, the referee showed no hesitation and gave a straight red card. The decision was checked by VAR, but no mistake was made, and Australia were down to 10.
Reiten almost sent Norway through to the quarter-finals but for a last-ditch challenge by Chloe Logarzo. The Chelsea forward’s left footed shot was deflected behind for a corner, hitting the side netting on its way through.
Hansen set Norway on their way in the penalty shoot-out, before Aussie star Kerr blazed her effort high and wide. Reiten and Mjelde both scored from the spot as Norway cruised to a comfortable penalty win.
Norway go on to face either England or Cameroon on Thursday in Le Havre. With England expected to win, Norway face a tough challenge if they are to make it through to the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-finals.
Norway (4-4-2): 1. Hjelmseth; 2. Moe Wold, 6. Mjelde ©, 3. Thorisdottir, 17. Minde; 21
Saevik, 8. Boe Risa, 14. Engen, 16. Reiten; 10. Graham Hansen, 9. Herlovsen.
Subs: 4. Hovland, 5. Hansen, 7. Thorsnes, 11. Utland, 12. Fiskerstrand, 13. Asland, 15.
Eikeland, 18. Maanum, 19. Kvamme, 20. Haavi, 22. Nautnes, 23. Bogstad
Australia (4-3-3): 1. Williams; 21. Carpenter, 14. Kennedy, 7. Cately, 8. Kellond-Knight; 10.
Van Egmond, 13. Yallop, 6. Logarzo; 16. Raso, 20. Kerr ©, 9. Foord.
Subs: 2. Simon, 3. Luik, 4. Polkinghorne, 5. Roestbakken, 11. De Vanna, 12. Micah, 15.
Gielnik, 17. Fowler, 18. Arnold, 19. Gorry, 22. Harrison, 23. Allen
By Sam Ward (@Sam_Ward00) – University of Derby Football Journalism student