England 1 – 0 Norway – The New Era gets off to an underwhelming start
Dawn has broken on the brave new era for English football but unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, there really wasn’t much here that we haven’t seen before. The game was flat for long periods and this performance will have done little to excite a sceptical public after the World Cup disappointment. There were some exciting performances from some of the younger contingent and let us not completely forget the final scoreline which did see England triumph 1-0.
England lined up in a conventional 4-4-2 formation and were on the front foot from minute one. The Three Lions played some intricate football with wide men Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling linking up well with the front two.
After playing a clever one-two with club team-mate Sterling, Daniel Strurridge found himself in space but saw his goal bound left footed curler blocked by the Norwegian defence.
Sterling then played Sturridge in again, this time with a clever diagonal ball over the top of the Norwegian defence. However, the Liverpool striker’s first touch let the ball get slightly away from him and the onrushing goalkeeper was able to apply enough pressure to force him to over hit his lob, which landed on the roof of the net.
On the half hour mark, Sterling was cleverly picked out on the left and he laid the ball into the path of full-back Leighton Baines but his effort lacked conviction and was deflected wide by the sliding defender.
England had a penalty appeal turned down shortly before the break as Jack Wilshere was seemingly upended as he surged into the box having run onto yet another Sterling lay off. Replays showed that Havard Nordtveit got nowhere near the ball and Wilshere will feel unlucky not to have won the penalty.
Wasteful: Daniel Sturridge squandered some good first half chances
Five minutes after the restart, Norway came the closest of either side had to breaking the deadlock when Joshua King leapt highest from a corner kick and produced a genuinely world class save from Joe Hart. With his body weight going the wrong way, the Manchester City keeper did extraordinarily well to stick out a left hand and palm the Blackburn forward’s header wide to spare England’s blushes.
King was back at it again minutes later as he latched onto a Gary Cahill mistake and then easily skipped passed a rather static Phil Jones only to be thwarted again by Hart, who spread himself to smother the effort.
England had Sterling’s electric pace to thank for igniting the second half. He picked the ball up on the left hand side of the box and drove down the outside. He was too quick for the Norwegian defender who upended him and gave the referee no choice other than to point to the spot. Step forward new captain Wayne Rooney to blast home the penalty and give England the lead.
That was Rooney’s work done for the night as he went off for newly signed Arsenal man Danny Welbeck as part of a triple substitution which also saw Fabian Delph come on to make his debut. And it did not take Welbeck long to have an impact as he made space for himself and fired a powerful shot at the goal which was well parried away by the goalkeeper.
England looked okay in patches here and will be happy to come away with the win but will know a big test awaits them on Monday night away in Switzerland. On paper, it looks the hardest match of the qualifying group and England will have to put together a more consistent performance if they are to get the win and begin to make people believe this time things might just be a little different.
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling
Undoubtedly England’s best performer here. It seems everything good that England are producing at the moment comes through him. Very lively in the first half and should have had at least one assist to his name before making the decisive burst in the second to win the penalty. It may just be his fifth appearance for England but the 19-year-old is fast becoming the most important player, let’s just hope his young shoulders can handle it.
Boy Wonder: Raheem Sterling’s performance suggest he is going to be very important to England going forward