Erling Haaland is one of the world’s best strikers and he proved that again for Norway on Monday evening.
The Borussia Dortmund ace, who nearly joined Manchester United last January, expertly rifled home a delightful volley in the first of two sublime goals as his nation battered Northern Ireland 5-1 at Windsor Park.
His first strike came at the end of a frantic start in which three goals were scored in seven minutes.
Mohamed Elyounoussi gave the visitors the lead after firing beyond Bailey Peacock-Farrell but Northern Ireland were level three minutes later, with Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein pushing Conor Washington’s shot into the path of Paddy McNair who tapped home the rebound.
But Norway led again almost straight from the restart as the hosts failed to deal with a ball into the box and Haaland was on hand to lash a left-footed shot home from the edge of the area.
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2020) September 7, 2020
The 20-year-old had his second shortly before the hour mark when Omar Elabdellaoui headed the ball on for him to lift it over the stranded Peacock-Farrell.
Former Crystal Palace striker Alexander Sorloth also scored two in what was a a chastening 5-1 defeat for Ian Baraclough’s men.
Haaland enjoyed an incredible breakthrough season at Dortmund, netting 16 times after snubbing United and joining the German club from RB Salzburg in January.
Never any doubt when Haaland is in front of goal ⚽️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/8xkhbDuEby
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 7, 2020
Many consider him to be one of the brightest stars of the future – and he continues to be linked with the likes of the Red Devils and Real Madrid.
A nice goal from this kid Haaland, huh? 🙂 pic.twitter.com/v3lAmRa1qZ
— Emanuel Roşu (@Emishor) September 7, 2020
Home bow could not have gone worse for Baraclough
While the overall performance in Romania was below par, at least the players showed the desire needed to get a result while down to 10 men.
Playing in an empty Windsor Park was always going to be difficult for NI, especially considering the vocal backing they usually get from the crowd, but few would have predicted the gulf between the teams would have been as great as it was.
As powerful and clinical as Norway were, NI were abject for most of the game and allowed their physical opponents to outmuscle and outplay them in all areas of the pitch.
Baraclough would have been buoyed by McNair equalising four minutes after the Norwegians’ early opener, but they switched off at the back immediately after the restart to give Haaland the chance to finish with his rocket.
Many defenders will struggle against the former RB Salzburg man and, although Ballard stuck manfully to his task, neither he nor Craig Cathcart could stop the imposing striker.
When the fifth goal went in with over half an hour to play, it looked like it could be an even bigger hammering as NI conceded five goals for the first time in a competitive home international since a loss to England in 1979.
Evans missing as Davis equals record
While positives were scant for NI, captain Davis can take some pleasure from the fact he equalled Pat Jennings’ all-time NI caps record as he made his 119th international appearance.
Having made his debut in February 2005, he will have had few tougher evenings than this one in Belfast as he wore the captain’s armband for the 67th time.
With Jordan Thompson keen to drop deeper to get the ball off the back four, 35-year-old Davis played slightly further forward than he has in recent games but he was powerless to prevent his side being overrun.
While Davis was reaching a personal milestone, fellow senior player Jonny Evans was once again missing from the squad, after not making the trip to Romania for personal reasons.
His club Leicester City tweeted a good luck message for the match to him on Monday morning, but he again did not feature, with Baraclough saying he picked up a minor injury in training.
The manager, who was also without Jamal Lewis, will no doubt be keen to have the experienced Evans back in his squad when Northern Ireland play that all-important Euro qualifier away to Bosnia-Herzegovina next month.
- Northern Ireland have gone three games in a row (D1 L2) without a win on home soil for the first time since September 2015 (D3).
- Norway have won six of their last seven away clashes with Northern Ireland (L1).
- Northern Ireland shipped five goals at home for the first time since April 2002, via a 0-5 friendly defeat to Spain.
- Northern Ireland conceded three goals in the first half of a game for the first time since June 2012, when they shipped four in the first period against the Netherlands in a 6-0 away defeat.
- Paddy McNair has scored four goals in his 36 appearances for Northern Ireland, with all of those goals coming in his last eight games for his country.
- Erling Haaland has scored 19 goals in 20 appearances for club and country (Borussia Dortmund & Norway) in 2020.
- Alexander Sørloth has bagged six goals in his last five games for Norway after managing just two in his previous 19 for his country.