Debut scoreline was harsh, claims O'Neill
Northern Ireland 0 Norway 3
Thursday 01 March 2012
Michael O'Neill's first match in charge of Northern Ireland saw a deflected effort and two late goals give Norway a comfortable victory in Belfast.
Things started brightly enough for the Irish, who had the better of the first period only to go behind a minute before the break, when Sammy Clingan diverted Havard Nordtveit's shot past the goalkeeper Lee Camp.
Tarik Elyounoissi doubled the margin late on, against the run of play, with a neat shot on the turn; Espen Ruud's volley completed Northern Ireland's misery in added time.
"I'm disappointed with the result, you can't get away from that," O'Neill said. "It's disappointing to lose two late goals when we were pushing to get something out of the game. I thought the scoreline was slightly harsh on us."
O'Neill's first team sheet included the recalled Dean Shiels and Shane Ferguson, who were both absent from the national set-up for the last two years of Nigel Worthington's tenure. David Healy started on the bench but with 17 minutes left he became his country's most capped outfield player, his 92nd appearance taking him clear of Mal Donaghy.
Midway through the first half, Northern Ireland went close in a frenetic couple of seconds as their new captain, Steven Davis, Martin Paterson and Gareth McAuley all tried to force the ball over the line from close range. But Norway took the lead a minute before the break when Aaron Hughes half-cleared a corner as far as Nordtveit, whose low shot beat Camp via the unfortunate Clingan.
Healy was the last of five changes made by O'Neill in the second half. The Rangers striker was unable to mark the occasion with a goal, but as the home side pushed for an equaliser Norway had time for two more.
Elyounoussi beat Camp at the near post before Ruud's superb volley was hit too hard for the keeper to stop.
Northern Ireland Camp; Hughes (Duff, 45), McAuley (Hodson, 57), J Evans, McGivern; Clingan, Davis, C Evans (McCann, 45), Ferguson (McCourt, 69); Shiels, Paterson (Healy, 73). Substitutes Mannus, McGinn, McQuoid, Carson, McGovern.
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