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Gibraltar put on a brave performance in Oslo last night where they took on Norway in their third and final FIFA World Cup Qualifying fixture of the current international window, losing 5-1 to the home side.

The defeat came on the back of a stacked international schedule that has seen Gibraltar play 3 games in the space of a week across Europe, away at Latvia, home to Turkey and then away yet again, this time in Norway.

This third and final fixture saw Gibraltar take on a team aspiring to reach the World Cup Finals in Qatar and led by one of Europe’s most coveted stars in the form of Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, who has started the season by racking up 8 goals and 3 assists in seven matches for club and country.

In addition to Norway’s strengths, Julio Ribas had to contend with his side being plagued by injury, as the likes of Dayle Coleing, Jayce Olivero, Erin Barnett, Ethan Britto, Lee Casciaro and Liam Walker all missed out, while star striker Tjay De Barr was also unavailable due to suspension.

 

Despite the obvious threat of Haaland, it wasn’t the Dortmund man who caused immediate threat to Gibraltar at the start of the match as Real Sociedad’s Alexander Sorloth tested Kyle Goldwin, (who was back between the sticks for Gibraltar due to Coleing's injury) multiple times in the opening minutes.

Sorloth’s efforts on goal set the tone for the majority of the match as Norway, knowing that only the top 2 of the group qualify for the World Cup Finals in Qatar, were eager to improve their goal difference and set themselves up to do exactly that.

Gibraltar defended admirably in the opening exchanges of the half, limiting the space in behind their backline and frustrating both the Norway team as well as the home supporters within the Ullevaal Stadion.

With this being said, Norway was still able to carve out a host of chances, with Goldwin proving key to keeping the score level, as well as young 20-year-old midfielder Kian Ronan who cleared a ball off the line in the 18thminute, getting in the way of Hanche-Olsen’s headed effort and clearing the danger.

Unfortunately for Gibraltar, it wasn’t long after Ronan’s heroics that the home side took the lead through Thorstvedt who slammed home a Meling low cross to put the hosts 1-0 up in the 22nd minute.

 

Following the first goal Norway pressed Gibraltar higher and in the 26th minute, Thorstvedt turned provider as he played through Haaland who continued his remarkable run of form by slotting the ball into the back of the net to put Norway 2-0 up.

The second goal put the hosts firmly in the driving seat however, Norway did not have it all their own way and despite Gibraltar being forced to defend deep, Julio Ribas’ men were well drilled and proved to be a tough nut to crack for the World Cup hopefuls.

Norway however did not falter as they continued in their search for a third goal and an improved goal difference which could itself become crucial in the deciding the outcome of Group G at the end of qualifying.

The home side were left frustrated until the 40th minute when who else but Haaland again stepped up to grab his second and Norway’s third of the game. Somewhat fortunate, a scramble on the edge of the box saw the ball deflect into the striker’s path who wasted no time in slotting his effort into the far corner of the net.

With goal difference in mind, Norway continued to press Gibraltar into the dying minutes of the half as Thorstvedt rattled the post before Gibraltar put the cat amongst the pigeons by grabbing a goal themselves.

 

With Norway attempting to play the ball out of the back, Julian Valarino reacted quickest to intercept a loose pass before a Graeme Torrilla tackle sent Reece Styche through on goal with Nyland. The striker kept calm under pressure and coolly dinked the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper to make it 3-1.

The home side almost responded in the perfect manner to Gibraltar’s goal as they were awarded a penalty in injury time for handball only for VAR to overturn the decision much to the jeers of the home support and the whistle went for half-time shortly after.

The second half brought more of the same for both sides, as Norway, cheered on by the tireless home support, looked to increase their goal difference, however, Goldwin was determined to stop Haaland and co.

Gibraltar’s goalkeeper was kept busy early in the second half and proved to be more than up to the challenge as he pounced on multiple chances first from Elyounoussi before frustrating Sorloth on a number of occasions, one of which included a remarkable reflex save from point blank range.

 

Despite Goldwin’s heroics, the Norwegian wave did not falter and on the hour mark Sorloth finally had his goal, latching onto a loose ball in the box and leaving Goldwin with no chance of saving it as he slammed it into the bottom corner from 10 yards out to make it 4-1

Gibraltar’s heads did not falter much to the delight of Julio Ribas who urged his team on from the side-line as they looked to continue frustrating their hosts with their compact shape and never say die attitude.

As the game wore on, Goldwin was again called upon 20 minutes from time as he pulled off the save of the match, reacting quickly and diving to his left to keep out King who connected well with a volley from point blank range that look destined to ripple the net. However, Gibraltar’s goalkeeper again pounced to the rescue and denied the home side their fifth.

Gibraltar continued defending well and frustrating the home side despite what the scoreline would suggest, however, Julio Ribas’ men would eventually concede a fifth in added time through Haaland who completed his hat-trick to round out Norway’s win.

The win sees Norway move level on points with the Netherlands atop of Group G and marks the end of a busy international period for Julio Ribas and his men who are next in action on October 8 when they play host to Montenegro.