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Hosts make winning start
 Women's Football Euros News - 17 Jul 2017
Euros News - Hosts make winning start - 17 Jul 2017 - Women's Football NewsThe Netherlands ensured that they got the Euro 2017 Finals off to a flying start when they defeated Norway 1-0 in the opening match in Utrecht.
The tournament hosts picked up the points against last time's beaten finalists when Liverpool winger Shanice van de Sanden headed in the only goal, midway through the second half.
The first half was largely an even affair but the Dutch could have taken the lead in the opening minute as van de Sanden charged down a clearance and squared for Lieke Martens but Ingrid Hjelmseth came to her side's rescue with an important block.
Martens, who is on her way to Barcelona next season, again tested Hjelmseth with a strike which was tipped over the bar but it was Norway who were to go close next, a superb turn in the area by Nora Holstad Berge buying her space in the area before Sari van Veenendaal was able to save.
Ada Hegerberg shot wide following good work by Caroline Hansen as Norway finished the first half on top but the scoreline remained goalless.
Holland picked up the pace after the break and a low cross from van de Sanden caused danger but Vivienne Miedema was unable to turn the ball home from close range. Miedema then sprang the Norwegian offside trap; however she snatched at her shot and it flew off target with only Hjelmseth to beat.
Miedema headed over and Martens was unlucky with a strike from the edge of the area which was inches wide before, on 66 minutes, the growing pressure finally told and a Martens cross picked out van de Sanden who stooped to head home from eight yards.
The Oranje continued to control the game and looked the likelier to add a further goal whilst Norway were struggling to make an impression at the other end. Martens saw a shot blocked and Desiree Van Lunteren fired wide but despite a few nervous moments in injury time, they never looked like losing their lead and the 21,000 strong crowd could celebrate a well deserved victory.
The second match in Group A saw Denmark take on Belgium, who were playing their first ever match in the Finals. The Danes produced the remarkable achievement four years ago of reaching the semi finals without winning a single match but they were ahead after six minutes this time. Pernille Harder's free kick was touched onto the bar by Justien Odeurs and Sanne Troelsgaard rose highest to head in the rebound.
Belgium responded with Tessa Wullaert heading just wide but Denmark continued to control matters and Nadia Nadim was close to a second but her shot was blocked by Heleen Jaques.
Belgium were to go close again early in the second half when a corner was headed on by Jaques, Janice Cayman's goalbound flick bringing out a good reaction save from Stina Lykke Petersen. Julie Biesmans and Tine De Caigny both shot wide as the Belgians looked much more of an attacking force.
Maja Kildemoes had a great chance to double Denmark's lead but she failed to hit the target after being set up by Harder. With Belgium committed forward, the game flowed from end to end and Wullaert looked to have a great chance to level the scores but she was denied by an excellent block from Simone Boye Sorensen.
As the game went into the dying minutes, Belgium piled on the pressure and could not have gone closer as a Wullaert free kick was headed onto her own bar by Sorensen. Wullaert herself had an injury time shot cleared off the line by Line Roddik as Denmark held on to take the points.
(top) Sari van Veenendaal makes a save from Ada Hegerberg
(middle) Lieke Martens goes close with a second half strike
(bottom) Vivienne Miedema gets in a shot past Nora Holstad Berge
(photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk)


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