England 1 - Norway 3
A very young England Women's side went down 3-1 to Olympic champions Norway on Friday in their first game of the friendly tournament, the Algarve Cup. England made ten changes to the side that beat Portugal last Sunday, featuring two new caps and with three players making their full debuts.
It was a promising performance from England against Norway, who put out a strong side. Norway went 1-0 ahead after just eight minutes from Boston Breakers player Dagny Mellgren but captain for the day Angie Banks pulled it back to 1-1 after holding off two Norwegian players to hit the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.
England could not hold the Norwegians for long and went 2-1 behind after 31 minutes when Unni Lehn sent a header crashing in the net from a corner. In the second half, England had several chances and Amanda Barr could have levelled, but she sent a close range shot straight over the bar despite just having the 'keeper to beat.
Substitute Rachel Yankey was adjudged to have fouled Monica Knudsen and Norway captain Hege Riise stepped up to take the penalty, coolly slotting past Rachel Brown.
"I was really pleased with the performance," said National Coach Hope Powell. "The tournament is all about development and I was pleased with the performance of the younger players. Norway played how we thought they would, but we played very well against them. There were a lot of positives to take out of the game."
Angie Banks scored only the second goal Norway have conceded against England since 1988, and England have yet to beat the Norwegians. Banks had given a committed performance as she staked her claim for a place in the first team.
"I think it is an honour just to play for your country, so to captain my country was just fantastic," she said. "I didn't think I played that well, but I got a goal against one of the best sides in the world so I maybe shouldn't be so hard on myself.
"We created several chances and at half-time we knew that we still had a chance to get something out of the game. We could have drawn the game level at 2-2, but we missed the chance. But we were happy overall with the way we played."
New caps were awarded to Rachel MacArthur, the Fulham defender, and Una Nwajei, the Southampton Saints forward. Casey Stoney of Arsenal, Carly Hunt of Doncaster Belles and Everton's Amanda Barr all started their first senior game for England.
England: Rachel Brown, Rachel MacArthur, Julie Fletcher, Carly Hunt, Casey Stoney, Mary Phillip, Amanda Barr, Vicky Exley, Una Nwajei (sub 46 mins Karen Burke), Angie Banks (c), Rachel Unitt (sub 73 mins Rachel Yankey)
Norway: Bente Nordby, Brit Sandaline, Anne Toennessen, Benite Kvitland (sub 84 mins Henriette Viker), Hege Riise (c), Solveig Gulbrandsen, Unni Lehn, Dagny Mellgren, Ane Stangeland, Trine Roenning, Anita Rapp