Le Sommer penalty puts France on verge of last 16
Valérie Gauvin opened scoring before Norway equalised through Renard own goal
France’s Eugenie Le Sommer celebrates scoring from the penalty spot in the Women’s World Cup Group A game against Norway at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
France 2 Norway 1
Eugénie Le Sommer held her nerve to score the VAR-awarded penalty winner for France after Wendie Renard had potentially gifted Norway a vital point in the race to top Group A in Nice on Wednesday night.
With France leading Norway courtesy of a Valérie Gauvin effort straight after the break, the six-times Champions League-winning Lyon captain Renard was left clutching her face in anguish as she watched her close-range poke nestle in the corner without a white shirt in sight to level things.
But after Ingrid Engen was eventually penalised for catching Marion Torrent, Le Sommer made no mistake and the hosts have two wins from two.
If frustration from Nice locals over the enforced online-only ticketing system led them to stay away when England played Scotland here, it was a different situation with the hosts in town. After their clinical 4-0 defeat of South Korea in Paris, 6,000 tickets were sold the following day to make Nice an official sellout – though there were still not an unsubstantial number of empty red and white seats littered throughout the stands.
The home nation’s opponents were, on paper at least, their trickiest Group A test. Norway are a very competent side, despite the absence of Ada Hegerberg, the scorer of a hat-trick for Lyon in the Champions League final, because of her unhappiness at the state of the game in her homeland. The centre back pairing of Chelsea’s Maria Thorisdottir and Maren Mjelde may not be how they line up for their club but, despite at times a sense of desperation in their play, they held strong against the early French assault.
With Lyon the backbone of this France side, there were shades of a Chelsea v Lyon Champions League semi-final rematch.
Kristine Minde struggled to contain Kadidiatou Diani, with Guto Reiten – newly signed by Chelsea – doing little to help out the full back behind her. There France were their most potent. Three times in 15 minutes, and twice in quick succession, the French winger sped past Minde and whipped a dangerous ball into the box but each time Gauvin was just unable to capitalise.
Norway’s best chance fell to Engen. Amel Majri was disposed by Karina Sævik on the right and she swept it into the path of Caroline Graham Hansen, who forced a corner. Engen got her head on the end of it but Majri was on the near post to head away and atone for her earlier error.
If France were frustrated and the crowd restless, it took just one minute after the restart before the latter erupted into life. Le Sommer, scorer of the tournament’s opening goal, turned provider, whipping a cross towards Gauvin, who swept in from close range. A stadium awash with mobile phone lights and miniature flags was suddenly re-energised. For Gauvin, it was relief. After the opening fixture she had said she had been omitted from the starting line-up because she had been late. The coach, Corine Diacre, contradicted her and said it was tactical. Given her chance here, she had a point to prove.
If momentum was with the French it was a calamitous error from two-goal hero against South Korea that would level things. Isabell Herlovsen broke down the left and put a cross across goal, and Renard, without a Norwegian shirt in sight, placed the ball into the bottom corner from six yards out.
Mistakes seemed to be the order of the day, though, and Engen’s high foot painfully caught Torrent on a thigh. It went to a VAR review, before Le Sommer stepped up to render her Lyon team-mate’s error meaningless. France passed the test, just. – Guardian