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Late goal costs Ferns victory

The Football Ferns, taking on the world’s ninth ranked side in two internationals, had the better of their opponents for much of the clash, despite their first experience playing indoors on artificial turf.
The New Zealand team, using three matches in Europe in preparation for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Canada, showed improvement in retaining possession and creating chances, but a slip in concentration eight minutes from the finish thwarted what would have been a significant victory.
“We need to learn that when we are on top in these games that we take our chances and get two or three goals up and we don’t let the opposition back in the game,” said coach Tony Readings.
“We had the better in possession and territory. In the second half we became a little impatient and didn’t keep our shape as well as we did in the first half.”
While Readings wanted more goals, equally he believes the team need to learn that holding a lead late in the game will be vital if they want to progress to the knockout phase in the World Cup.
“Late in the game when we are 1-0 up then sometimes that will be enough. Just keep the ball and the opposition can’t score and if you win 1-0 by doing that then great. Leading 1-0 will be very important in group stages of the World Cup so that’s another lesson for us to learn.”
Readings said his side adapted well to the indoor conditions on artificial turf which complemented the Football Ferns’ approach of possession play, with short, fast passing. There were improvements from the 2-1 loss to world fourth ranked France.
“Our ability to control our possession were much better today. We did turn that possession into quite incisive play at times and got behind their lines which we were not able to do against France.
“Norway minimize the opportunities but when we get them we need to take them a bit more clinically. But it was a step up today in our ability to use our possession and be a bit more effective with it.
“When you play an athletically organised team like Norway who play with a lot of numbers between the ball and the goal then you have to create something special from a player to break down the opposition. We did that a few times today and we definitely took some steps forward in that area.”
It was from one such opportunity that Christchurch midfielder Annalie Longo produced a telling cross, not cleared at first attempt by the Norwegian defence, allowing striker Amber Hearn to volley home in the 34th minute.
It was the 44th goal in 90 internationals for the 29 year old Aucklander who plies her trade for USV Jena in the German Bundesliga.
The Ferns were unable to add to the tally despite the amount of possession with Norway starting the second half well, especially on the counter. New Zealand reasserted themselves but allowed the game to drift in the final 10 minutes, with an intended cross from the flanks by Norway ended up drifting into the net eight minutes from time.
Hearn said the team was disappointed, despite a draw against such a high ranked team.
“We can play against teams at this level. We had the better of the game and we should have come away with the win,” Hearn said. “The team is not satisfied these days. We expect results because we can play at this level and set high expectations for ourselves.
“We will be going out to give it everything in our final game for a win.”
The final match is in the same venue against Norway at 7am NZ time on Friday.
Norway 1 New Zealand 1 (half: 0-10)
NZL: Amber Hearn 34m
Football Ferns: 1. Erin Nayler (GK), 2. Ria Percival, 4. Katie Hoyle, 5. Abby Erceg (capt), 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 9. Amber Hearn, 10. Sarah Gregorius, 12. Betsy Hassett, 16. Annalie Longo, 20. Helen Collins (17. Hannah Wilkinson 69m)
Substitutes not used: 8. Hayley Bowden, 11. Kirsty Yallop, 15. Meikayla Moore, 18. Catherine Bott, 19. Evie Millynn,
21. Rebecca Rolls (GK), 24. Jasmine Pereira, 25. Isabella Coombes
Coach: Tony Readings
For more on New Zealand football go to www.nzfootball.co.nz

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