By Kevin Ashby at Halliwell Jones stadium
The holders Germany got their 2005 UEFA European Women's Championship campaign off to a winning start as a Conny Pohlers goal just after the hour dashed Norway's hopes of causing an early Group B upset in Warrington.
Pohlers was the 14-goal leading scorer as her club 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam won the UEFA Women's Cup last month and she showed similarly clinical finishing when beating Bente Nordby with an angled shot after being picked out by Navina Omilade. The defeat may have been harsh on Norway, although coach Bjarne Berntsen has every reason to be confident ahead of the game here against France on Thursday, when Germany face Italy in Preston.
Norway were able to field their strongest side, with the 21-year-old Stine Frantzen winning her fourth cap as a lone central striker supported by Dagny Mellgren on the left and Unni Lehn on the opposite flank. With Birgit Prinz unable to shake off a thigh injury to start, Germany coach Tina Theune-Meyer also opted for youth in attack by deploying her most inexperienced squad member, Anja Mittag, ahead of Pohlers and Kerstin Garefrekes.
The 4-3-3 formations brought the promise of positive play and so it proved as twice in the opening 90 seconds Norway looked uneasy defending German attacks, goalkeeper Nordby and Gunhild Følstad both forced to sweep the ball into the stands. Germany's Sandra Minnert was soon under the pressure at the other end, though, as Solveig Gulbrandsen and Mellgren combined to create a fine opening for Lehn whose shot was palmed behind for a corner by Silke Rottenberg.
High on skill
This was a game high on skill, with both teams keen to utilise the flanks. Mittag was a willing runner for Germany and in the ninth minute teed herself up for a half-volley which dipped considerably but was watched all the way by Nordby. Norway's Ingvild Stensland surpassed that effort soon after in attempting to chip Rottenberg from the halfway line - the pace was perfect but the ball dropped just wide with the scrambling keeper beaten.
Garefrekes had Germany's best chance of the half with the interval eight minutes away as Pohlers turned Marianne Paulsen and delivered a cross which club-mate Mittag flicked on to Garefrekes, who could only volley wide. There was no let up in each side's attacking play after the break with Inka Grings of Germany and Mellgren both squandering early efforts. Grings thought she had scored in the 52nd minute after slipping the ball under Nordby but Ane Stangeland was well positioned to race in and hook the goalbound shot clear.
After Frantzen had gone close with a volley, Mellgren attempted to play in the striker following Gulbrandsen's clever pass only for Hingst to intervene. Having gone so close to scoring, it was all the more galling for Norway when Omilade controlled the ball on her chest just outside the area and clipped a ball left to Pohlers who scored with a neat finish in the 61st minute.
Late on Mellgren headed straight at Rottenberg, then with five minutes left Gulbrandsen volleyed over, but luck was not on Norway's side.