Winning start for Roy
Saturday, 26 May, 2012
Ashley Young's early strike gives England victory over Norway
By Jamie Bradbury
Ashley Young provided the moment of inspiration that handed Roy Hodgson a victory over Norway in his first game as England Manager.
The Manchester United forward struck to give the Three Lions hope as early as the ninth minute, and though the game pettered out in the second half, it will certainly give Hodgson food for thought four days into his preparation for Euro 2012.
A while the game wasn’t overflowing with goal chances at either end, a victory and a clean sheet in his first outing will certainly send him back home with a smile ahead of their final pre-tournament friendly at Wembley next week.
Coming into the game, history wasn’t necessarily on England’s side. No victory over the Norwegians for 32 years, and the last meeting between the two nations ended goalless in Oslo in 1995. Norway boss Egil Olsen was in charge of the home team on that night, too.
But, having managed in Scandinavia for the best part of 15 years during his career, including a year with Norwegian outfit Viking FK, it was perhaps a perfect place for the new Manager to start his reign leading the Three Lions.
And as the first chance to try things out before the start of the important business in Donetsk in just over a fortnight, Hodgson looked at a slightly different line-up with Young, usually out wide, playing behind Andy Carroll up front.
Rob Green began in goal, with Phil Jones, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott and Leighton Baines in defence – a back-five that may well be sitting on the bench against France, with John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson all absent. Meanwhile James Milner, Scott Parker and Stewart Downing joined captain Steven Gerrard in midfield.
Former Liverpool boss Hodgson was almost given the best of starts when Reds duo Downing and Carroll linked up with just three minutes played. The winger collected the ball on run on the left and clipped in an inviting cross for Carroll, but the big striker could only direct wide of the post.
But, when Young picked the ball up 40 yards from goal with eight minutes on the clock, he carried forward to a more dangerous position, faked the long range shot and turned the Norwegian defence. He glided into the box before firing past Rune Jartsein for his fifth goal in his last six games for England.
Norway, though, who have failed to qualify for a major Finals in the last 12 years, began to enjoy a lot of possession. They came close to levelling a couple of minutes later when 19-year-old Rosenborg midfielder Markus Henriksen, forced Green to push a powerful shot around the post. From the resulting corner, the ball almost caught the West Ham keeper off guard but it struck the post.
By now, much of the play was in England’s half, but on a couple of occasions when the Three Lions did break forward they created a chance. Carroll almost fed the unmarked Young inside the area but his pass was too far in front of his forward partner. Then just after the hour Milner stung Jartsein’s hands after cutting into the box and firing at the near post with his left foot.
A robust challenge by Gerrard on the half-way line resulted in a free-kick, much to the skipper’s disappointment, and ended Tom Hogli’s evening five minutes before the break as the Club Brugge full-back limped off. And the score remained 1-0 as the two sides followed him to the dressing rooms at half-time.
Gerrard didn’t come out after the break either, as Gareth Barry replaced the Liverpool man, and England came close to extending their lead twice in the opening five minutes of the half.
Another individual run from Young was halted by a trip from Vadim Demidov right on the edge of the area. Baines took the free-kick, bending away towards the far post, but Jartsein did well at full stretch to push away.
Phil Jones then marauded forward from the half-way line before he tried his luck from 25 yards out. The ball took a vicious deflection and carried through to the goal, smashing against the upright. The linesman’s flag would have ruled it out for an offside anyway.
The home side were once again seeing a lot of the ball in England territory, as the visitors sat deep. The introduction of Theo Walcott in place of Parker was with his fast attacking prowess in mind. But he was exposed in the right-back position shortly after coming on by John Arne Riise. He nutmegged the Arsenal man but, perhaps unwisely, opted to shoot from a narrow angle. His strike was hard, but not good enough to beat Green.
There was an injury concern for Hodgson when substitute Barry was himself replaced with 17 minutes left by Jordan Henderson, but he also introduced debutant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the goalscorer, a player for England’s future.
And he almost crafted a chance after linking with Walcott with his first touch, but his shot was snuffed out. Unfortunately after that, he had little chance to show the form that has helped him find the net four times this season for the Under-21s.
But while Norway may have enjoyed more of the possession, they rarely threatened Green and it was no surprise when the referee blew the final whistle England finally ended their 32-year run without victory over the Norwegians.
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