Early Young strike hands Hodgson debut win
Oslo: Roy Hodgson’s England reign got off to a winning start on Saturday evening as they registered a comfortable 1-0 victory over Norway in Oslo.
Ashley Young scored his seventh international goal after finishing a fine solo run, before Morten Gamst Pedersen struck the woodwork for the hosts directly from a corner.
Hodgson started Liverpool trio Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll for England, while Robert Green was preferred in goal to Joe Hart and stand-by defender Phil Jagielka started alongside former Everton club-mate Joleon Lescott at centre-back.
Fulham duo Brede Hangeland and John Arne Riise formed part of the England-based contingent for Egil Olsen’s Norway, with Morten Gamst Pedersen of Blackburn lining up in midfield.
England almost took the lead within five minutes with a move made in Liverpool. Downing burst down the left before whipping in a cross to Carroll at the near post, but the lofty striker could only head wide when he looked certain to score.
The Liverpool hitman was making his presence felt on the pitch, and on eight minutes he dropped deep to win the ball and find Young, who went on a darting run, skipped past a challenge and fired the ball left-footed into the far corner to give England the lead.
Moments later, Green had his palms warmed for the first time in the match, tipping a Markus Henriksen drive wide. The woodwork then came to the keeper’s rescue as Pedersen’s curling corner struck the near post, much to Green’s relief.
Young had a chance to double his tally inside the quarter of an hour after Carroll nodded down to Gerrard, who volleyed the ball over the Norway defence into the path of the Manchester United winger, but he sliced his first-time effort tamely over.
The hosts eventually settled and started building up some possession of their own, but weren’t creating any clear-cut chances. After Daniel Braaten had earlier headed over, Riise cut inside from the left wing and drilled a low ball into the England area, forcing an excellent block from Jagielka who did well to clear the danger.
Young set James Milner free down the right-hand side, and the Manchester City midfielder produced a strong run forward, cutting inside and drilling a left-footed effort towards the near post which Jarstein got behind easily.
Abdellaoue managed to direct a shot through the legs of Jones after some fine build-up play, but the ball rolled wide of Green’s goal.
Tom Hogli was replaced by Espen Ruud shortly before half-time after being on the receiving end of a strong challenge from Steven Gerrard.
Gareth Barry replaced Gerrard at the break to pick up his 53rd cap and draw level with Glenn Hoddle on the all-time appearances list.
Young won a free-kick on the edge of the area within the first few minutes of the half, and Leighton Baines curled a low effort across goal which Jarstein did well to keep out.
Jones then made a driving run forward, continuing unchallenged to the edge of the box and drilling a deflected effort against the post.
Pedersen looked to draw the hosts level with a long range effort, but fired well wide as England continued to look reasonably comfortable in all areas of the pitch, despite increasing amounts of possession for Olsen’s side.
Riise had two efforts that flew wide, while Theo Walcott replaced Parker, moving Milner into the centre.
Norway were much improved, and Hodgson’s side were surrendering more and more possession, finding it difficult to get forward in numbers and giving the ball away cheaply on several occasions.
Riise was the main source of the Norwegian threat, and he fired another ball across goal which England only half cleared, and the ball fell to substitute Christian Grindheim, who replaced Pedersen, but he blasted disappointingly over from the edge of the area.
Hodgson then gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his first England cap with just over fifteen minutes remaining, bringing on the Arsenal youngster for Young, while also throwing on Jordan Henderson for Barry, who appeared to be suffering with a groin problem.
Oxlade-Chamberlain almost made an immediate impact, linking up superbly with Walcott inside the box, but the Norway defence managed to scramble the ball clear.
Adam Johnson, another player on the stand-by list, then came on for Downing in the closing stages of the match, with Liverpool defender Martin Kelly shortly following him on to the pitch, replacing Jones at right-back.
Hodgson’s side held on for the win and will look to continue their momentum going into Euro 2012 when they host Belgium just nine days before their first group game against France.