Norway lucky to sink Lithuania

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A lacklustre Norwegian national football team (landslaget) managed a slender 1-0 win over Lithuania in Oslo on Tuesday evening – and needed a good deal of luck to sneak by their opponents, even though Lithuania is ranked 35 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings.

Coming off the back of their brave but disappointing 1-0 loss to Portugal on Saturday night, landslaget looked far less interested or motivated to play an uncompetitive end-of-season international friendly against far inferior opposition. Lithuania themselves came to Norway after a disastrous week in which they lost 2-0 away to tiny Liechtenstein on Friday night, a side ranked 153rd in the world that had previously only won a single game since October 2007.

The Norwegian performance was characterized by a string of sloppy errors and an inability to create fully-fledged chances despite dominating possession. In the first half, coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen chose to go with Mohammed “Moa” Abdellaoue and Erik Huseklepp up front, but the partnership was so dire that changes were made at half time, bringing on Daniel Braaten for Moa.

Norway’s inadequate first-half display was underscored by two chances for Lithuania at the end that constituted the best chances of the match by that point. They required good saves from otherwise untroubled Norwegian goalkeeper Rune Almenning Jarstein. Braaten, who has impressed as a substitute in recent games for Norway, energized the team after half-time, but landslaget continued to fail in the final third. Indeed, substitute midfielder Simon Brenne was guilty of missing an open goal when the ball fell to him in the box after a corner on 75 minutes – he shot over the bar from just four yards when it seemed easier to score.

Soon after, Norway would have a moment of luck that decided the game. Huseklepp received the ball on the right hand side of the Lithuania penalty area before going to ground under the challenge of a defender. The assistant referee on that side of the pitch raised his flag to indicate a foul and the referee gave the penalty – but replays showed that the contact with the defender was minimal. Nevertheless, Norway’s luck didn’t end there – penalty taker Morten Gamst Pedersen took a tame penalty straight at the Lithuanian goalkeeper, but was extremely fortunate to see the ball rebound back to him for an easy tap-in finish that gave Norway the lead. From then on, Norway was able to see out the game 1-0.

This was another friendly in which Norway failed to impress, but luckily the match has no impact on their European Championship qualifying campaign. The next match for landslaget will be another home friendly – this time against significantly tougher competition in the form of the Czech Republic – which will be played in Oslo on August 10.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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