Much-changed Northern Ireland lose to Norway as poor Nations League results continue

Conor Washington
Conor Washington came close for Northern Ireland early on

A much-changed Northern Ireland suffered their third consecutive Nations League defeat as a Stuart Dallas own goal gave Norway a 1-0 win.

The Leeds United man deflected a corner into his own net in the 67th minute to hand victory to the hosts in Oslo.

Manager Ian Baraclough made 10 changes to the side that lost to Austria on Sunday and they produced a solid, hard-working display.

The defeat leaves NI bottom of the group with one point from four games.

It extends a poor run in the Nations League for Northern Ireland who have now picked up just one point from eight games since the competition began two years ago.

While their Nations League misery continues, Northern Ireland have a Euro 2020 play-off final against Slovakia in Belfast to look forward to in November after a penalty shootout victory over Bosnia last week.

Josh Magennis, playing in a front two with Conor Washington, had a great chance to open the scoring in the first half but his effort was saved by home goalkeeper Andre Hansen.

Baraclough’s preparations for the game were disrupted when Burnley goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell was injured in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Trevor Carson.

The Motherwell keeper performed well on his sixth cap, producing excellent saves from Erling Haaland and Joshua King.

Defensive shape helps shut Haaland out

Trevor Carson started for NI after Bailey Peacock-Farrell got injured in the warm-up
Trevor Carson started for NI after Bailey Peacock-Farrell got injured in the warm-up

When Norway came to Belfast in September, Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland – who had scored 27 goals in 27 games during 2020 before kick-off – outclassed NI as he scored twice in a 5-1 hammering.

Baraclough set up in a 3-5-2 shape for the return fixture and, while Haaland did have three chances, he was not afforded anywhere near as much space as he was at Windsor Park.

A defensive unit marshalled by captain for the night Jonny Evans, the only player to be retained from the starting line-up against Austria, worked hard throughout and will feel unfortunate to have conceded such an untidy goal.

Daniel Ballard, who had a chastening night against Haaland in what was only his second cap in Belfast, looked assured in a back three while Tom Flanagan on the other side of Evans also performed well.

Flanagan helped prevent Haaland scoring in the second minute when he slid in to make a vital goal-line clearance after Carson had got down low to produce a superb save from Haaland’s shot on the turn.

The Dortmund striker placed a header straight at Carson on the stroke of half-time and the Motherwell keeper showed good instincts to keep out a low effort from King soon after the break.

NI’s solidity and hard work looked like it was going to earn them a point before Dallas went to clear a corner, but deflected it in off the back of his arm under pressure from Stefan Strandberg.

Front two look threatening in first half

Josh Magennis
Magennis, right, was unable to convert NI’s best chance of the match

It is not very often that Northern Ireland start a match with a striking partnership but Washington and Magennis were deployed in tandem by Baraclough.

Both are renowned for their hard work and willingness to make runs, and it looked like Baraclough was relying on that to provide an attacking threat given how rigidly the midfield and back-line were keeping their shape.

Washington got in behind the home defence as early as the third minute, latching on to a George Saville pass and hitting a well-struck left-foot shot that forced a smart save from Hansen.

Magennis had tried his luck from distance before Washington’s clever hold-up play and pass put him through on goal for an excellent chance on 19 minutes.

The Hull City striker’s first touch could not have been any better but, as the keeper came off his line, Magennis could not get the elevation that was needed on his shot, meaning Hansen was able to make a fine block.

Liam Boyce may have felt unlucky not to be called on from the bench but, with NI so often playing with a lone striker in recent years, it will be interesting to see if Baraclough returns to a front two for the Euro play-off final against Slovakia.

Improved performance before Euro play-off final

Ian Baraclough
The defeat by Norway was Baraclough’s fifth game in charge of Northern Ireland

After the euphoria of Northern Ireland’s Euro play-off semi-final win over Bosnia, what followed at Windsor Park in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Austria was extremely flat.

With the play-off final at home to Slovakia no doubt at the forefront of his mind, Baraclough will have been pleased with what was very much an improved performance in Oslo.

He had to be careful not to overuse players, many of whom are still searching for full match fitness, and he did that by with the 10 changes he made to the starting line-up.

The solidity provided by the back three and the threat posed by a front two, albeit only in the opening 45 minutes, may make the new manager feel he has more tactical options at his disposal as he looks to guide NI to their second successive Euro finals.



  • 12Hansen
  • 14Elabdellaoui
  • 6Strandberg
  • 3Ajer
  • 2Meling
  • 10ØdegaardSubstituted forLinnesat 78′minutes
  • 15Berge
  • 21NormannSubstituted forMidtsjøat 65′minutes
  • 11ElyounoussiBooked at 75mins
  • 7KingBooked at 62minsSubstituted forSørlothat 65′minutes
  • 23HaalandSubstituted forHenriksenat 87′minutes


  • 1Jarstein
  • 4Østigard
  • 5Rosted
  • 8Johansen
  • 9Sørloth
  • 13Løvseth Rossbach
  • 16Svensson
  • 17Linnes
  • 18Midtsjø
  • 19Henriksen
  • 20Hauge
  • 22Thorsby

Northern Ireland

  • 12Carson
  • 3SmithSubstituted forDallasat 60′minutes
  • 22Ballard
  • 5EvansSubstituted forMcLaughlinat 45′minutes
  • 4Flanagan
  • 11Ferguson
  • 15ThompsonSubstituted forDavisat 85′minutes
  • 13Evans
  • 6SavilleSubstituted forMcNairat 61′minutes
  • 21Magennis
  • 16WashingtonSubstituted forWhyteat 75′minutes


  • 2McLaughlin
  • 7McGinn
  • 8Davis
  • 9Boyce
  • 10Lafferty
  • 14Dallas
  • 17McNair
  • 18Whyte
  • 19Cooper
  • 20McCann
  • 23McGovern

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