England make history with stunning Round of 16 victory over Norway

England’s women produced a strong second half comeback to secure a famous victory Monday afternoon in Ottawa, knocking former Women’s World Cup winner Norway out of the tournament in the Round of 16 to secure a quarterfinal against host Canada in Vancouver on Saturday night.

Relative international newcomer Lucy Bronze, getting the call at right back from coach Mark Sampson, struck the 2-1 game-winner with 14 minutes of normal time remaining, hitting the top right corner from outside the box. It was as good a goal as the tournament has seen and decided a game that Norway long controlled only to lose the script after taking the lead.

The result also confirmed the changing of the guard in European women’s play, Norway, the 1995 World Cup winner, yielding pride of place to an England eleven which has grown consistently since participating as part of Great Britain in the London Olympics and can now rightly stake a claim among the world elite. They had previously failed at this type of hurdle but had the stamina and guile to survive on a very warm afternoon in the Canadian capital.

Solveig Gulbrandsen, the 34-year old veteran midfielder with 184 caps to her name, gave Norway the opening goal early in the second half after they had dominated play territorially without being able to cash in on that edge but England replied with captain Steph Houghton bringing the Three Lionesses level as she fought through traffic to head home from a corner.

That gave England the platform to fight on for Bronze’s strike which meant that the English could stretch their recent unbeaten run against Europe’s former leaders to five games, four of which were friendlies. Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was again big in the net for England, stopping three clear chances when her defense was beaten by Norwegian attackers.

Both teams battled the summer heat and bright sunshine on the artificial turf of Lansdowne Stadium, with passes again proving hard to read on the surface, often racing to the endline or touchline before players could reach them. It was again not uncommon to see even throw-ins bounce over their intended target off the ersatz playing field.

The first clear opportunity came for Norway in the 11th minute when Isabell Herlovsen got clean through and brought a very fine kick save from Bardsley who came off her line with speed, then went down sharply to block the shot. Other than that, the teams were unable to open real paths to goal in the opening stages and what shots were attempted were high, wide or blocked by defenders. England found themselves resorting to long balls seeking runners isolated against a defender, but the bounce off the turf made it difficult for the receivers to have much control even when space might have been available.

Ada Hegerberg nearly broke the deadlock when she pounced on a poorly-judged backpass from Bronze, then shrugged off Bronze’s attempts to take her down in the box only to see her effort go unrewarded when she ran out of angle to make Bardsley do more than block her 40th minute attempt. Another potential Norwegian raid down the left was pulled up for a non-existent foul before the shot could come in, an England defender having fallen without any contact.

Norway lost captain Trine Ronning at the interval. The veteran defender who has battled a thigh injury throughout the tournament yielded her spot to 22-year old Maria Thorisdottir who had played in the back four during the group stages.

The first breakthrough came in the 54th minute when a deflected shot by Gulbrandsen forced Bardsley to make a save and concede the corner. From Lene Mykjaland’s set piece delivery on the left Gulbrandsen lurked at the near post and headed home just off the underside of the bar. Goal-line technology wasn’t needed to confirm that the ball fell well behind the goal-line after nicking the woodwork and beating Bardsley and her defenders.

England needed just seven minutes to get level however with Houghton the scorer as she headed Fara Williams’ right side corner kick back across the face of goal from just about six yards. The England captain was under pressure but managed to get power behind the header.

The goal brought England to life and they began to control midfield for the first time, stretching the width of the match and forcing the Norwegians to do more chasing than they had been accustomed to in the first hour. But it was Hegerberg who made the next big chance when she forced Bardsley to be in the right spot to parry a 74th-minute shot from the right.

That set up the decisive raid of the game, an attack down the right side that eventually saw Bronze get space to deliver her arrow. Bronze struck from the top right outside the box after Jill Scott and Fara Williams had helped to create both the attacking move and the space for the 23-year old.

Karen Carney brought the very best from Norwegian keeper Ingrid Hjelmseth just minutes later with a shot from the top which nearly found the left corner for what would have been an insurance goal.