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Northern Ireland suffered a poor start to their European Championship campaign on Thursday, as Norway ran riot in Southampton to win 4-1. Julie Blakstad opened the scoring after 10 minutes, and Frida Maanum doubled the lead just three minutes later. Norway were then awarded a penalty after Nadene Caldwell was deemed to have handled the ball by VAR. Caroline Graham Hansen converted from the spot to put the result out of reach for Northern Ireland, and manager Kenny Shiels fumed about the referee appointment post-match.
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"We made mistakes, we were 2-0 down and then they get a penalty where the ball hits the player in the upper arm and the Nordic referee, who was refereeing a game involving a Nordic team, gave the penalty," said Shiels. "But I don't for one minute say it was because she was the referee. I'm just saying those statistics were there and it made it really hard for her to referee and UEFA are very precise and they tell you what to do and they are so exact that I think that was a boo-boo. "But most referees under the new ruling would probably have given it anyway but I'm just saying that it was tough for us." Finnish official Lina Lehtovaara was in charge of the match, and while Shiels was quick to criticise, the 66-year-old manager then quickly retracted his statement. "I'm just talking to you as people; people with the same types of feelings that we all have. "It's not a big thing, it's just a passing comment, so don't worry about it." Guro Reiten's free-kick after the break ensured Northern Ireland's first appearance at a major tournament would end in defeat, although they didn't leave empty-handed, with Julie Nelson's consolation at least giving fans something to cheer.
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With Norway now top of Group A via goal difference, they're next match is against England, who won their opener against Austria 1-0 earlier this week. The two sides face each other on Monday, July 11, with kick-off at the Falmer Stadium scheduled for 20:00 BST.
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