Norway 1 Republic of Ireland 0

Caroline Graham-Hansen’s penalty midway through the first-half in Stavanger inflicted a third straight defeat on the Republic of Ireland to end their World Cup qualification ambitions.

Norway had beaten Northern Ireland 4-1 and Slovakia 6-1 in their previous home matches of the campaign but found a resilient Ireland a much tougher proposition and had goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth to thank for denying Katie McCabe a stoppage time equaliser.

For this must-win penultimate qualifier, Ireland boss Colin Bell was forced into two changes to his side, with the suspended Diane Caldwell and injured Niamh Fahey adding to his selection problems.

Into midfield came US-based Megan Connolly while Claire O’Riordan, normally a striker for Wexford, was handed her first competitive start in the heart of Ireland’s defence.

It was a similar story to Friday’s meeting between the nations in Dublin insofar as Norway dictated the tempo, spraying the ball wide to wingers Graham-Hansen and Guro Reiten.

Wolfsburg star Graham-Hansen was first to translate the early pressure into a worthwhile chance by forcing Marie Hourihan to turn her rising shot on 16 minutes around the post.

From the corner, Isabell Herlovsen was left unmarked to connect but her header rebounded of the crossbar with captain Maren Mjelde unable to sweep the rebound home.

Just as Ireland seemed to be settling, helped by some intricate passing from McCabe and Leanne Kiernan, their failure to clear their lines cost them dearly on 25 minutes.

Graham-Hansen capitalised by raiding into the right side of the penalty area, drawing a mistimed challenge from O’Riordan which Swiss referee Esther Staubli didn’t hesitate in punishing. 

Although Hourihan went the right way, Graham-Hansen’s penalty into the bottom corner was perfectly placed.

Katie McCabe on the run

Bell was pleased with Ireland’s response, utilising the pace of 19-year-old Kiernan as their main ploy in trying to retrieve the situation. After sweeping a shot from distance wide, she continued to test the Norwegian defence which her teammates made space from. 

Connolly, who volleyed wide as the interval approached, also had valid claims for a penalty rebuffed when Mjelde caught her inside the box. The hosts were also relieved to see O’Riordan glance her free header off-target from McCabe’s corner.

Ireland continued to push for an equaliser after the break, Denise O’Sullivan hooking a volley over the crossbar and Connolly being unable to keep her close-range header down.

In his final attempt at salvaging something from the contest, Bell threw on Amber Barrett and Rianna Jarrett for the closing seven minutes. Jarrett’s flick-on landed at the feet of O’Riordan yet she couldn’t get the ball out from under her feet to work keeper Hjelmseth.

There would be one final chance to level in stoppage time when McCabe wriggled free to shoot on the turn but this time Hjelmseth had to be at her best to stoop down low and keep the effort out.

Norway: Ingrid Hjelmseth (Stabaek); Ingrid Moe Wold (Lillestrom), Maren Mjelde (Chelsea), Maria Thorisdottir (Chelsea), Emilie Haavi (Lillestrom); Caroline Graham Hansen (Wolfsburg), Frida Maanum (Lingkoping), Ingrid Syrstad Engen (Lillestrom), Guro Reiten (Lillestrom); Lise-Marie Utland (FC Rosengård), Isabell Herlovsen (Valerenga).

Subs: Elise Thorsnes (Utah Royals) for Utland (61 mins), Vilda Boe Rise (Arna-Bjonar) for Maanum (64 mins), Synne Skinnes Hansen (Lillestrom) for Herlovsen (90+2 mins)

Ireland: Marie Hourihan (Manchester City); Sophie Perry-Campbell (Brighton & Hove Albion), Claire O’Riordan (Wexford), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount Utd); Karen Duggan (Peamount Utd); Tyler Toland (Maiden City); Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Florida State Seminoles); Katie McCabe (Arsenal); Leanne Kiernan (Shelbourne).

Subs: Amber Barrett (Peamount Utd) and Rianna Jarrett (Wexford) for Connolly and Kiernan (both 83 mins), Isibeal Atkinson (Shelbourne) for O’Gorman (89 mins).

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)