The Lionesses signed off on a successful year, ending 2022 unbeaten with a 1-1 draw with Norway in Pinatar. Rachel Daly’s first-half goal was cancelled out by Frida Maanum late on as the final international break came to a close.
It had been 127 days since these two sides last met on that infamous summer’s evening in Brighton. That day, Sarina Wiegman’s side subjected Norway to an 8-0 drubbing on their way to winning the European Championship.
The differences to that night were many. A breezy Pinatar Stadium in southern Spain was the setting, and while almost at capacity, it was a stark contrast to recent crowds in England. Wiegman’s side were much changed both due to injury and her taking the opportunity to bed in new faces. Fresh off an impressive showing against Japan last week, their younger players were given their chance once again. Five changes saw Maya Le Tissier handed her senior debut and Lauren James starting in midfield, while Rachel Daly was given a rare opportunity as central striker role.
Norway had won three of their last five under new manager, Hege Riise, since the summer, most recently losing narrowly to France on Friday evening. Riise made three changes from that match with Aurora Mikalsen given a start in goal while Emilie Haavi and Lisa Naalsund provided fresh legs.
It was the Norwegians who started the brighter, finding their feet quickly and pushing forward with energy. Haavi made an impression straightaway, finding space time and again down the left side. She forced a smart save from Ellie Roebuck in the opening minutes before setting up Naalsund who fired over in space.
England, on the other hand, were dominating possession but struggling to make an impact in the final third. A combination of the wet surface and new faces were the cause with the Lionesses needing to find their feet. They truly settled after one of James’ trademark runs saw their first shot on target. The Chelsea midfielder makes football look easy and she glided past her marker with effortless skill before firing a shot into the gloves of Mikalsen.
England looked in control from this point and opened the scoring through the in-form Rachel Daly with half an hour on the clock. She rose high to send home another pinpoint Kelly delivery, her ninth goal of an extraordinary season for club and country. She could have had two more just before the break but the back of the net just eluded her in the latter stages of the first half.
Wiegman is not known for making early substitutions but three came at the break, perhaps with a nod to the busy domestic schedule in the weeks ahead. Georgia Stanway took the captain’s armband as she entered the fray alongside Katie Zelem and Esme Morgan.
Changes can cause disruption and Norway saw it as an opportunity to put a new-look Lionesses defensive line under pressure. Amalie Eikeland had Roebuck stretching to tip over a curling effort before the England keeper was alert to the run of Sophie Haug as she broke through.
This England side, however, just love to play football and can turn on the flair in an instant. Kelly’s deliveries from the left have been a stand-out this international break and she produced two more that were just crying out for a crimson shirt to get on the end of it. They were helped also by the departure of Anja Sønstevold in the 73rd minute, given her marching orders by Zuzana Valentova for two yellow-card challenges on Nikita Parris.
Despite their shortage in numbers, however, Norway were in no mood to throw in the towel and provided a shock late on. Frida Maanum, the impressive Arsenal midfielder, fired into an empty net within minutes of coming on to the field after Roebuck miscued her attempted clearance.
England turned on the pressure once more with Katie Robinson providing fresh legs in attack as she became another to earn her first senior cap. Despite their dominance on the ball, however, they could not fashion a clear-cut opportunity and had to settle for a draw to round out their year.