A smart finish from Reece Styche was unfortunately not enough to prevent an Erling Haaland-inspired Norway side from running out 5-1 winners in Oslo last night against Gibraltar.
Photo © Rough & Ready
Among the changes from Saturday’s defeat against Turkey were Kyle Goldwin coming in for Dayle Coleing, who was a surprising absentee from the 22-man matchday squad, while Styche came in for the suspended Tjay De Barr up top. There was also a start for Ethan Jolley, while Louie Annesley returned from suspension as well.
Norway went into this game level on points with the Netherlands, but with an eight goal worse goal difference, and from the first minute you could see they were trying to correct that. However, as well as Gibraltar’s defence, Stale Solbakken’s side had another issue in the end – Netherlands ran out comprehensive 6-1 winners against Turkey in a top of the table clash in Amsterdam.
Norway would, after just over 20 minutes of trying to break down Gib, then go and score three goals in 16 minutes. Like in March, Kristian Thorstvedt opened the scoring, before Haaland, who drew a blank in the Victoria Stadium in the two teams last meeting, grabbed a brace to seemingly put Norway on the road to a cricket score.
Gibraltar soon had other ideas though – Gibraltar’s pressing game led to Julian Valarino latching onto a loose Norwegian pass; Graeme Torrilla then won a 50-50 on the edge of the box which set up Styche, who showed great composure to dink the ball over Bournemouth keeper Orjan Nyland to reduce the deficit. VAR would come to the rescue before the break, overturning a Norway penalty, and the teams went in 3-1 at the half time whistle.
Alexander Sorloth had numerous chances throughout the game, but eventually got his goal to make it 4-1 on the 58th minute, and Norway would have hoped Gib would crumble. That would not be the case though, and it would take until the final moments of the game for Dortmund’s Haaland to get his hat-trick and add a 5th for Norway, who go second in the group but slipped slightly further away from the Netherlands, who Gib travel to face in Rotterdam in October.
The result officially ended any Gibraltar hopes of reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and with Julio Ribas’ project aimed around that tournament (his contract is believed to end at the end of 2021 though), it will be interesting to see if either Ribas, or the GFA see this as an opportunity for a fresh start after November. For now though, there are four more qualifying games, including two home matches against Montenegro and Latvia where, if some of the defensive shackles are loosened, Gib could give the fans something to cheer with a positive result or performance. With Styche scoring his second in as many starts, and De Barr also showing promising form on the international stage, will those games be the time for the pair to finally start up top together?