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Mjelde earns Norway the edge

Ukraine 0-1 Norway
Maren Mjelde's first goal for Norway gave them victory in the first leg of their play-off though the visitors had a penalty saved.

Ukraine's Daryna Apanaschenko takes on Lisa-Marie Woods (left) and Solveig Gulbrandsen
Ukraine's Daryna Apanaschenko takes on Lisa-Marie Woods (left) and Solveig Gulbrandsen ©Viktor Koshmal

Norway took control of their FIFA Women's World Cup play-off after Maren Mjelde's goal secured victory in Ukraine.

Having not lost a competitive home game since 2003, Ukraine were hopeful of securing a lead to take to Bekkestua on Wednesday. But not only did Mjelde strike in the first half but Ukraine lost Tetyana Chorna to a red card just after the break, though Nadiya Baranova saved the resultant penalty.

The stakes were high for both teams, with Norway having never failed to qualify and Ukraine aiming for their maiden World Cup, but the deadlock was broken on 32 minutes when an Ingvild Stensland corner was not cleared and Mjelde pounced to score her first international goal from close range. In the first minute of the second half Cecilie Pedersen, who had just been brought on, was fouled in the box by Chorna; the defender was sent off but Baranova denied Trine Rønning from the spot.

Olena Khodyreva came close a couple of times for Ukraine but the 1995 World Cup winners held on. However, there was a blow late on when teenage striker Pedersen suffered what looked a bad injury.

Ukraine coach Anatoliy Kutsev said: "We have played one of the best teams, but it's still possible for us to succeed in this round." His Norway counterpart, Eli Landsem, added: "Our players were nervous, so they had very few opportunities. But the final score is good for us, and I think we'll go through to the finals. The Ukraine team have taken a big step forward. I was also impressed with the number of fans at the stadium and the way they supported their team."