A trio of substitutes helped Germany recover from a goal down to overcome Norway and set up a UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ final with England at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium on Thursday.
Bjarne Berntsen's team went in at the break ahead thanks to Isabell Herlovsen's early strike but the game swung in the holders' favour in the space of two minutes either side of the hour when Simone Laudehr, a first-half replacement, finally broke the Norwegian resistance. Célia Okoyino da Mbabi, on at half-time, then completed the turnaround with a far-post header before Fatmire Bajramaj struck late on as Germany continued their bid for a fifth straight title.
The holders found themselves behind for the first time in the tournament after ten minutes. Ingvild Stensland flighted a corner into a crowded penalty area and, as a host of players jostled for position, Herlovsen headed in at the far post. Stensland's corners were causing the Germany backline, missing the experienced Ariane Hingst through injury, all manner of problems and from another midway through the half they almost doubled their lead, Lene Storløkken hitting the post after goalkeeper Nadine Angerer failed to gather.
Norway, as Germany coach Silvia Neid predicted, dropped deep, leaving Herlovsen up on her own and invited the holders on. For all their possession, though, there was little sign of the champions' much-vaunted attacking prowess, with Norway No1 Ingrid Hjelmseth only called into serious action for the first time two minutes before the break when she denied Inka Grings from an acute angle.
Neid sacrificed right-back Bianca Schmidt for the more attack minded Da Mbabi at the interval with Kerstin Garefrekes moving to full-back as Germany sought an immediate route back into the match. The change gave the six-time winners fresh impetus with first Birgit Prinz forcing Hjelmseth to dive to her right, moments before she crossed for Grings to stab wide.
The pressure was growing on the Norway goal and it finally told on 59 minutes when a cross from Melanie Behringer reached Laudehr at the far post and the first-half substitute fired past Hjelmseth. Norway were deflated and they conceded again two minutes later when Laudehr crossed for the unmarked Da Mbabi to head inside the far post.
Norway were almost handed an equaliser when Angerer spilled Stensland's delivery while seconds later the goalkeeper palmed out an audacious attempt from Cecilie Pedersen. The game was completely open and only the legs of Hjelmseth denied Prinz after she created space for herself in the area. Bajramaj gave the score a more polished look when she turned in a loose ball in added time.
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