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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Alamy Stock Photo Northern Ireland players celebrate (file pic).
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Northern Ireland pull off shock win over Italy
Kenny Shiels’ side earned a memorable win in front of a sold-out Belfast crowd.

NORTHERN IRELAND pulled off a shock 1-0 win over Italy in tonight’s international friendly in Belfast.

The only goal came just after the hour mark — Sarah McFadden pounced on a rebound, after Laura Giuliani saved Emily Wilson’s initial effort.

It set up a famous victory at Seafield for Kenny Shiels’ side against a side ranked 14th in the world — 35 places above Northern Ireland.

It continues a memorable year for the Northern Irish team, who competed in the Women’s Euros for the first time ever during the summer, after qualifying against the odds.

Elsewhere, goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck’s error allowed 10-woman Norway to draw 1-1 with England, although the Lionesses still finished the calendar year unbeaten.

England had taken the lead in the first half at the Pinatar Arena in Spain through Rachel Daly but Sarina Wiegman’s European champions were unable to finish their historic year with a victory.

Despite Anja Sonstevold being sent off for a second booking, Norway equalised when Roebuck made a misjudgement as she came out of the box and failed to clear the ball, allowing Frida Maanum to slot in the equaliser.

Last time the sides met in the Euros over the summer, England ran out 8-0 winners to secure qualification from their group and serve notice of their tournament-winning quality – but Norway offered a much tougher challenge in November.

Since then, Norway have employed former England interim head coach Hege Riise and their tactics saw them sit deep against the Lionesses, who enjoyed most of the early possession but struggled to create significant openings.

It was Norway who had the best of the early chances in the 22nd minute when debutant Maya Le Tissier was beaten, allowing Emile Haavi to break down the left, but Guro Reiten’s shot was just wide of the goal.

Lauren James also had an opportunity to break through when she shot from distance following a clever Kiera Walsh one-two, but her effort was straight at the Norway goalkeeper.

England broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark when Daly headed past the goalkeeper.

The 30-year-old Aston Villa forward, who played at left-back at the Euros but was selected on this occasion in her regular club position, was expertly picked out by Chloe Kelly and nodded home.

Roebuck had to make a key save to prevent Sophie Haug levelling the score after the break. The England goalkeeper blocked Haug’s attempt to tap the ball over the line after capitalising on a defensive error, and Alex Greenwood was able to clear.

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Roebuck also had to make a save in the 56th minute to keep out a curling free-kick from Reiten towards the corner.

Just after the 70-minute mark, Norway’s task of finding an equaliser appeared to have been made more challenging when Sonstevold was sent off following a second yellow for a foul on Nikita Parris.

But they shrugged off their numerical disadvantage to equalise with 10 minutes left.

A probing long ball forced Roebuck off her line but she missed the clearance, allowing Maanum to reach the ball first and slot home, and England had no response.

Additional reporting by Paul Fennessy

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