Northern Ireland’s Nations League frustrations continued as a Stuart Dallas own goal condemned them to a 1-0 defeat to Norway in Oslo.
A Northern Ireland side featuring 10 changes from that beaten by Austria on Sunday battled hard and created several chances in the first half, but were undone in cruel fashion as Martin Odegaard’s 67th minute corner span off the arm of substitute Dallas to find the corner of the net.
It was a seventh defeat in eight for Northern Ireland in this competition, keeping them bottom of League B1, though Ian Baraclough will take some encouragement from how some of his squad players stood up to a team that won 5-1 in Belfast last month.
With focus already firmly on next month’s Euro 2020 qualifying play-off final against Slovakia, that was arguably more important than the result here and there were positive signs from the likes of Daniel Ballard, Tom Flanagan and Michael Smith.
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) October 14, 2020
While Northern Ireland were beating Bosnia and Herzegovina on penalties in their qualifying play-off semi-final last week, Norway saw their own hopes ended by a disappointing home defeat to Serbia.
But they got that out of their system as Erling Haaland scored a hat-trick in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Romania and threatened to pick up where they left off here.
There were only 90 seconds on the clock when Haaland spun in the area and shot at goal.
Trevor Carson, who only came into the side when Bailey Peacock-Farrell was injured in the warm-up, got enough on it to slow the ball down before Flanagan hooked if off the line.
It might have been the start of a Norwegian onslaught similar to the one seen at Windsor Park last month but instead Northern Ireland, who had emphasised the importance of starting strongly, were soon on the front foot.
Conor Washington, impressive throughout the first half, broke through to force a save from Andre Hansen before Corry Evans fired over after a corner.
Josh Magennis cut in from the break to shoot straight at the goalkeeper after one counter-attack, then passed up the best opportunity of the entire half in the 19th minute.
Washington worked hard to dispossess Odegaard before slipping in his strike partner, who could not lift it over the goalkeeper.
The game settled down after the early flurry, but Norway threatened again on the stroke of half-time as Haaland got free of Ballard but could not direct his header past Carson.
Jonny Evans, the only player to have kept his place from both the Bosnia win and the Austria defeat, appeared to pull up late in the first half and handed the captain’s armband to brother Corry as he was replaced by Conor McLaughlin at the break.
Carson was busy again six minutes in as Odegaard fed Josh King, whose low shot forced the Motherwell goalkeeper to quickly get down to his left.
Norway threatened once more just before the hour when a corner made it through to Stefan Strandberg at the far post but he could not keep his shot down.
Dallas was sent on alongside Paddy McNair on the hour, but the Leeds man was then unfortunate to be caught out for the goal as Odegaard’s corner struck his arm and span beyond Carson into the far corner.
Northern Ireland struggled to muster a response, their best chance a Corry Evans shot from the edge of the area which went comfortably wide, but will look to pick out the positives before the showdown with Slovakia on November 12.