Norway 0-1 England – Hodgson era starts with dull win in Oslo

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The man in the dugout might be different but the players and the style are pretty much the same. Ashley Young got Roy Hodgson’s reign off to a winning start but this was largely an uninspiring performance.

A bright first half-an hour gave way to a sloppy 15 minutes before the break and following that, England never really regained any momentum lucky, in the end, to grab a win against a team which just failed to qualify for Euro 2012 themselves – their first win in Oslo since 1966.

Hodgson got just the start he needed with a superb individual goal from Ashley Young after just nine minutes. The Manchester United player controlled a high ball on the edge of Norway’s area. A dummy run from Steven Gerrard split the defence and Young beat Brede Hangeland with a deft feint before striking across the keeper in to the bottom right-hand corner.

This looked like a new England; composed and assured, comfortable in possession and building patiently from the back with the attacking triumvirate of Young, Gerrard and Andy Carroll working well. However, about 15 minutes before the break the whole team collectively lost concentration and reverted to type squandering possession all too easily.

Gerrard’s very reckless challenge on Tom Hogli epitomised the England in this period. Off the ground and with studs showing the latest England skipper was lucky not to have been sent off let alone booked. It was a mindless challenge to make in the opposition half during a friendly. This was not leading from the front. He was replaced by Barry at half time and the Manchester City player was the one injury concern for Hodgson, himself coming off 18 minutes from the end with a groin strain.

Amid all this there were some bright spots – the clean sheet being the main one as Hodgson always looks to build teams which are hard to beat. Instrumental in that was the performance of Robert Green in his first start since that game and that goal against the USA was one. He looked confident and made several crucial saves.

While Carroll still fails to truly convince as an international forward – heading wide after four minutes when he should have at least hit the target and over-hitting a pass to Stewart Downing when both were unmarked – but his work rate couldn’t be faulted. He made several key interventions in defence without them the knives, already sharpened for Hodgson, would have been unsheathed.

If this had been a qualifying match it would be job done but with friendlies it’s as much about the performance as the result and on the same day Hodgson’s era began with a win in Oslo, Holland lost at home to Bulgaria and Germany were brushed aside 5-3 by the Swiss. Yet for them you feel these are probably just aberrations, for England, despite the victory, you have the feeling that the lack of creativity and the inability to retain possession will be their undoing when they face better teams than Norway in the weeks to come.

Norway (4-1-4-1): Jarstein, Hogli (Ruud 39), Demidov, Hangeland, Riise; Tettey (Jenssen 90); Elyounoussi, Henriksen (Berisha 82), Gamst Pedersen (Grindheim 62), Braaten (Huseklepp 72); Moa. Subs: Pettersen, Madsen, ,.

England (4-2-3-1): Green; Jones (Kelly 87), Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Parker (Walcott 55), Gerrard (Barry 45 (Henderson 72)); Milner, Young (Oxlade-Chamberlain 72), Downing (A Johnson 82); Carroll. Subs: Hart, Defoe,.

Did you know… Ashley Young has scored in his last four internationals.

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