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Slick Norway beat Spain to last-four berth

Norway 5-1 Spain
Norway will face Italy in the semi-finals after three first-half goals set them on course for a comfortable win on coach Jarl Torske's 62nd birthday.

Guro Reiten celebrates after putting Norway 4-1 up
Guro Reiten celebrates after putting Norway 4-1 up ©FIGC

Norway delivered coach Jarl Torske the perfect 62nd birthday present as a 5-1 victory against Spain sealed a meeting with Italy in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship semi-finals.

Needing a point to beat their opponents to second in Group B, first-half goals from Andrine Hegerberg, Kristine Hegland and the in-form Melissa Bjånesøy secured all three. Spain reduced the arrears when Maren Knudsen put through her own net after the hour but late goals from substitute Guro Reiten and Bjånesøy's fifth of the finals ensured Norway ended on a high.

The last time Spain were in Forli, for the opening day draw with the Netherlands, coach Ángel Vilda said the dry conditions restricted his side's passing game. A storm meant there was no such complaint on Sunday, though almost inevitably the wet surface contributed to Norway's killer seventh-minute opener. A long ball over the top held up slightly on the bounce, allowing Bjånesøy to pip the hesitant Sandra Paños to the ball and hook it into the empty net.

It was a sign of things to come. Spain had started well, linking up well but without penetration; it was not a problem Bjånesøy and Hegland had at the other end. Paños twice denied the latter as the Spain back line was stretched time and again, but plug one hole and another appeared. Just after the half-hour Paños came out to deal with an angled cross at feet of Hegland, lying prone as her block fell perfectly for Andrine Hegerberg to dispatch the ball low into the bottom corner.

The game was all but over by half-time. Nagore Calderón brought some Spanish cheer with their first real shot on target but Norway's response was brutal, Hegland outstripping Laura Gutiérrez before making it 3-0 with a deft chip. When it rains it falls. Spain improved after the interval, pulling one back when Ingrid Søndenå's clearance ricocheted in off Knudsen, but the damage had been done.

Bjånesøy and Anja Sønstevold combined to set up Reiten on 85 minutes and there was still time for Bjånesøy to chip in a fifth. So Norway go on with confidence brimming, a 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup place in the bag too; bottom-of-the-section Spain go home with nothing.