Norway start Euro 2022 bid with 4-1 win over Northern Ireland

Twice champions Norway crushed debutants Northern Ireland 4-1 on Thursday as both teams got their Women's European Championship campaign underway in an entertaining match.

Norway, who have twice reached the final since their most recent title in 1993, looked confident throughout the game and took the lead before the 10-minute mark through midfielder Julie Blakstad.

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Frida Maanum doubled the advantage three minutes later after receiving a neat pass from 2018 Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen made it 3-0 from the penalty spot in the 31st minute.

Following the match, Northern Ireland coach Kenny Shiels suggested that UEFA made a "boo-boo" by appointing a Nordic referee -- Finland's Lina Lehtovaara -- to referee a Nordic team, though conceded that most referees would have given the penalty.

Defender Julie Nelson, Northern Ireland's most capped player, pulled one back for the only first-timers at the 2022 tournament just after half-time, nodding home from the edge of the six-yard box.

Midfielder Guro Reiten lashed a free kick past goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns five minutes later to restore Norway's three-goal lead and inflict a heavy loss on Northern Ireland in their first match at a major tournament.

"I'm very happy we scored four to be honest," Norway coach Martin Sjogren said afterward. "I'm more disappointed we let the goal in.

"If you look at the way the game went, I was very happy with the first half. I think the first 45 minutes, we could have scored more goals. In the second half, I think Northern Ireland bounced back a bit and we got sloppy especially in the build-up which is what happened before the goal on the corner.

"If you do it too many times at this level, you get punished which we did. But we bounced back."

Compounding Northern Ireland's misery was a serious-looking injury for key player Simone Magill.

"Our thoughts are focused on Simone Magill. She has got a bad injury," Shiels said.

"Simone will be out versus Austria, which will be a big loss for us. We've got development strikers. We can play different systems to allow for that.

"I'm a football coach not a doctor but I don't think the signs are good."

Norway moved top of Group A ahead of second-placed England, who are also on three points following their 1-0 win over Austria on Wednesday.

Norway play England on Monday in Brighton.

"It is a totally different game," Sjogren said of their meeting with the Euro 2022 hosts. "We had a plan that we were going to dominate this game. We won't dominate the next game the way we did this one. We have a good plan for the next one."