Norway beats Ireland 2-1 in Dublin friendly
A late strike from Erik Huseklepp gave Norway a 2-1 victory over a second-string Ireland side in a friendly Wednesday, spoiling the record 109th cap for Irish goalkeeper Shay Given.
Ireland took the lead in the fifth minute after striker Shane Long won a dubious penalty and converted the spot kick. Replays indicated that Long grabbed defender Brede Hangeland by the arm before they both tumbled to the ground.
Norway equalized in the 34th minute after a hand-ball by defender Stephen Kelly outside Ireland's penalty box. Morten Gamst Pedersen's perfectly judged 25-meter free kick curled over the defensive wall and into the top left corner.
"We would have scored if Kelly hadn't handled the ball, so the free kick was completely deserved," said Pedersen, who also provided the assist for Huseklepp's winner in the 86th minute.
The game, played in heavy second-half rain before a half-capacity crowd at Dublin's new Aviva Stadium, appeared headed for a draw until Pedersen's low cross from the left wing passed a lunging Kelly and found Huseklepp at the far post. He shot the ball at a sharp angle, and Given could only slap it into the net.
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said his team deserved the win but conceded the late goal because Kelly and Greg Cunningham, who gave Pedersen plenty of time and space for his cross, "were a little bit tired and didn't cover fast."
Trapattoni fielded an experimental lineup full of youngsters after 10 regulars, including veteran striker Robbie Keane and defender Richard Dunne, withdrew citing injuries.
But the home side started strongly, managing five attempts on target in the first 20 minutes to Norway's none.
Ireland narrowly missed going up 2-0 in the 12th minute when Norway goalkeeper Jon Knudsen slapped Liam Lawrence's low cross just beyond the boot of Long. The ball rolled out to Damien Duff, but Knudsen kicked his attempt off the line.
Ireland dominated possession but Norway looked more dangerous on the counterattack.
"They had loads of new faces. They also had the ball most of the time," Pedersen said of the Irish. "But we defended well and took our chances when we got them."
Norway is atop Group H in a European qualifying group that includes Portugal, while Ireland is in second place behind Russia in Group B. Both teams play their next qualifiers in March.
Ireland: Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, John O'Shea, Darren O'Dea (Kevin Foley, 67), Greg Cunningham, Liam Lawrence (Aiden McGeady, 46), Keith Fahey; Glenn Whelan, Damien Duff (Stephen Hunt, 74), Shane Long, Kevin Doyle (Jonathan Walters, 46).
Norway: Jon Knudsen (Espen Bugge Pettersen, 46), Tom Hoegli, Koetil Wahler, Brede Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Erik Huseklepp (Morten Moldskred, 91), Christian Grindheim (Ruben Yttergard Jenssen, 55), Henning Hauger, Petter Vaagan Moen (Kristofer Haestad, 78), Morten Gamst Pedersen, Thorstein Helstad (Bjorn Helge Riise, 46).