Internationals: Hosts down Norway in opener
news Sun 16 Jul 2017
Chelsea Ladies’ Maren Mjelde led out her nation for the first match of UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 but her Norway side fell to defeat against the hosts Netherlands on Sunday.
The first of our female players to captain her country at a major tournament, Mjelde (pictured above on the right) played at the heart of Norwegian defence during an electrifying first half but moved into midfield with the two-time European Champions struggling to threaten after the interval.
For the Netherlands, local heroine Shanice van de Sanden delivered. The Utrecht-born forward scored the decisive goal in her native city and the stadium where she began her career.
The pattern for the play was set inside 30 seconds when Van de Sanden found Lieke Martens from the right wing, but Ingrid Hjemlseth denied the home team a dream start to their own Euros with the earliest of contenders for save of the tournament.
Good positioning was required for Mjelde to eliminate crosses emanating from the flanks. Van de Sanden and Martens continued to prove a menace, along with former Blues midfielder Jackie Groenen, the Dutch attackers outpacing the visiting full-backs.
Mjelde showed why she is a free-kick specialist with a stunning strike shortly before half-time, forcing a diving save from Sari van Veenendaal. On this occasion, though, she could not replicate her memorable goal against Germany at the 2015 FIFA World Cup.
A record Dutch crowd of 21,732 spectators for a women’s game were left wondering how the game remained goalless when Mjelde and her team-mates snuffed out a succession of chances until Van de Sanden and Martens swapped roles to link up for the winning goal.
With the King of the Netherlands watching the first goal of Euro 2017 – a crowning moment for female football in the country – the tide of jubilant orange fans will live long in the memory. This is only their second win over Norway in 15 competitive games.
Mjelde advanced into the midfield as Norway, one of the dark horses of the competition, chased an equaliser. However, the Chelsea regular was unable to repeat the magic that brought her team level late into their final warm-up against France.
A young Nordic line-up were highly regarded going into the championships. The defeat puts pressure on their forthcoming Group A games against Belgium and Denmark, must-wins to guarantee progress.
The Stadion Galgenwaard next plays host to England and Scotland on Wednesday, a game which may feature five Chelsea Ladies and is to be broadcast live on Channel 4 and Eurosport.
By Danny Wittenberg