By Kevin Ashby at Ewood Park
Tina Theune-Meyer's final match as Germany coach ended in yet more glory as her side defeated Norway 3-1 in Blackburn to win a sixth UEFA European Women’s Championship and a third under her tenure.
Having played an assistant's role in the European triumphs of 1989, 1991 and 1995, Theune-Meyer took charge in 1996 and subsequently added further crowns the following year and in 2001 on home soil. First-half goals from Inka Grings and Renate Lingor had put Germany into a position of strength before Dagny Mellgren gave Norway hope. Birgit Prinz, playing in her fourth final, had other ideas, however, and settled the match with a deflected shot from range in the 63rd minute.
With tiredness a factor following their victory against Sweden, Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen recalled Trine Rønning and Stine Frantzen, yet it was the same Germany side which defeated Finland in the other semi-final that played with the greater intent for the opening half-hour. Prinz was looking sharper than in previous matches and in the fourth minute raced in behind the Norway defence only for Gunhild Følstad to slide in and deny the striker as she shaped to shoot.
Germany also looked dangerous from set-pieces and in the tenth minute Lingor and Conny Pohlers were involved in a free-kick straight from the training ground which almost fashioned a chance for Sandra Minnert. The German right-back then made two interventions to deny Mellgren, the latter of which saw Ingvild Stensland pick out Lise Klaveness with the resulting corner - the striker was in space eight metres out but could only head against the ground and wide.
Germany traditionally punish such profligacy and within three minutes they were 2-0 ahead. After Bente Nordby had somehow pushed Prinz’s fierce half-volley over her bar, the Norway goalkeeper was beaten by a soft opener as Grings headed a Pohlers corner goalwards and although Anja Mittag swiped at the ball and missed, the header nevertheless found its way into the net. That German advantage was doubled as Grings looped a high ball over the static Norwegian defence for Lingor, who had the freedom of Ewood Park to loft a shot over Nordby.
Lesser teams may have crumbled, but just as the sunshine turned to heavy rain in an instant, so Norway’s approach changed and four minutes before half-time they were back in it. Frantzen saw Mellgren charging between Steffie Jones and Minnert and played a weighted pass that the winger flicked beyond Silke Rottenberg with the outside of her right boot. Suddenly the Germans looked fallible, and would have gone in on level terms had Frantzen not been marginally offside as she drove a low shot into the German net.
Aside from Prinz shooting wide early on, Norway continued to lay siege to the German goal from the restart. Rottenberg palmed away a 50th-minute Klaveness shot that spun off Minnert, before the Norway striker headed the resulting cross from Gulbrandsen over. The Germany goalkeeper then uncharacteristically spilled a low shot, enabling the lively Gulbrandsen to unsuccessfully attempt to lob her as the orange-shirted goalkeeper tracked back towards goal.
Prinz put the game beyond Norway’s reach with her third goal of the tournament shortly after the hour. Lingor showed trademark trickery to escape her marker and find Prinz 30 metres from Nordby’s goal, the striker looked up and fired off a shot which took a significant deflection off Ane Stangeland to leave her goalkeeper flat-footed.
Prinz almost added a fourth which would have saw her finish as the outright leading scorer in England, only for Nordby to brilliantly deny her with a low 80th-minute save. The 27-year-old still had plenty to celebrate, though, after becoming the first player to score in three finals following her efforts in 1995 and 1997.
Attendance: 21,105 (a final record)