An inexperienced Northern Ireland side has been ruthlessly dispatched at the Women’s Euro 2022 by Norway 4-1 in their first-ever appearance in any international tournament.

Norway came into the game as the heavy favourites led by former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, who was returning to international duties after her protest against gender inequality in football.

The Scandinavian side opened the scoring when Guro Reiten crossed the ball to unmarked Julie Blakstad, who then blasted the ball past the Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns in the 9th minute.

The Grasshoppers pressured the lowest-ranked nation in this tournament to commit another mistake from their goalkeeper and Hegerberg stole the ball and passed it to Frida Maanum who scored again in the 12th minute.

Norway head coach Martin Sjögren said he urged his team to maintain focus throughout the game.

“I am very happy [that] we scored four to be honest [but] I am more disappointed that we let one in and if you look at the way the game went,” he said.

“I am very pleased with the first half of course, also we got the game the way we wanted it to be [when] we scored an early goal.

“We could have scored more goals but scoring three and dominating the game the way we did… we got a bit sloppy, especially in the build-up which was actually happening before the goal on the corner.

“We missed in their build-ups and if you do [that] too many times at this level you get punished which we did, but then we bounced back again. I think we were ending the game, the last 20 minutes, the way we played the first half, so I am very happy with the performance.”

The win makes it five in a row for Norway with their last one being 2-0 against New Zealand in the preparation friendlies, but the Irish side hasn’t won in their last five games.

Northern Ireland conceded a penalty for a handball in the 30th minute courtesy of VAR, which Caroline Graham Hansen stepped up and scored again, having netted a hat trick in the qualifiers against the same team.

The Northern Irish started the game on the front foot, but their chances were few and barely troubled the Norwegian goalkeeper Guro Pettersen all game.

The Norwegian side cruised through the first half with 15 shots on target compared to Northern Ireland’s four and most of the ball possession – 61 per cent to 39 per cent.

Northern Ireland got on the score sheet in the opening minutes of the second half when Nadene Caldwell’s bullet header in the 49th minute went past Pettersen in goal.

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels told the waiting press he won’t change his tactics or style to avoid losing but rather he expects his young team to make mistakes and learn from them.

“You do not change the way you want your team and the players within your team to improve because anybody can be good, but can we get better,” he said.

We must take risks to make mistakes and learn, that’s the order that you do it in.

“In order to get better you need to take risks, if we don’t take high risks, the experience that the girls get from this tournament will be non-existent.

“We must take risks to make mistakes and learn, that’s the order that you do it in and that’s exactly what I meant. If we are cards and we just play not to lose, then we will not get better as individuals and as a collective,” Shiels said.

Northern Ireland’s Sarah Mcfadden committed a foul near her box which she got booked for and Norway’s Reiten capitalised on it with a well-placed free kick in the 53rd minute, extending their lead.

Northern Ireland was the first team to utilise their bench when they brought on Marissa Callaghan for Nadene Caldwell at the beginning of the second half.

Hegerberg had a goal cancelled by VAR when she was judged to be offside and her penalty claims were dismissed earlier for going down in the box by the on-field referee.

Norway committed a three-woman substitution when they brought on Tuva Hansen, Vilde Bøe Risa and Karina Sævik while Northern Ireland exchanged Rebecca Holloway for Julie Nelson in the 65th minute.

Northern Ireland changed players at the interval when they brought on Kirsty McGuinness for Rachel Furness in the 73rd minute but also used all their required substitutions and brought sister Caitlin McGuinness for Simone Magill and Emily Wilson for Lauren Wade in the 79th minute.

The Grasshoppers committed their final substitutions in the closing minutes of the game to see out the game and they exchanged Guro Bergsvand for Maren Mjelde and Anna Jøsendal for Julie Blakstad.

Norway will play England on July 12th while Northern Ireland face off against the Austrians on July 16th.

Image screenshot courtesy Optus Sport.