Chelsea Women players Maren Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir of Norway progressed to the final 16 of the Women’s World Cup with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over their Blues team-mate Ji So-Yun and South Korea.
Three Blues players were present on the pitch tonight with Mjelde, captain of Norway, at centre-back with Throisdottir and Ji in South Korea’s midfield. Chelsea’s latest addition, Guro Reiten, was stationed on the left of midfield for the Norwegians.
This game was of high importance for both sides as a win or draw for Norway would have guaranteed them a place in the knockout stages, and a victory for South Korea would have given them a very slim chance of progressing further in the tournament. However, Norway came out on top and have cemented second place in Group A behind France and Ji’s World Cup journey has sadly come to an end after finishing bottom of the table.
It did not take long for Norway to open the scoring and they took the lead after four minutes when referee Marie-Soleil Beaudoin signalled a penalty. This was decided when West Ham United’s midfielder, Cho Soh-Yun, had a hold of Thorisdottir inside the box and eventually dragged her down to the ground. Norway’s no.10, Caroline Graham Hansen, stepped up and accurately placed her effort down Kim Minjung’s right-hand side to score the earliest spot-kick ever in Women’s World Cup history, and the quickest goal at France 2019.
The Norwegians were chasing for another and managed to force another corner minutes after their goal. Both of Chelsea’s defenders went up for the corner, and Mjelde almost increased the scoreline, but to South Korea’s relief, her headed effort flew over the crossbar.
The early goal seemed to have woken up the Koreans, and they powered forward with Ji leading the attack alongside Yeo Minji. Chances came for South Korea from set-pieces, and Ji nearly levelled the score on 35 minutes when the ball was half-cleared from a corner. It eventually found its way to our no.10, but her curled effort was claimed by Norway’s experienced goalkeeper.
The South Koreans came out after the break and played with sheer determination to get back into the game. However, they made the task even more difficult for themselves when they gave away another penalty from a reckless challenge five minutes after the interval. Norway’s goalscorer was through on goal, but Kang Chaerim put a stop to that when she swiped the striker’s legs and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Isabell Herlovsen blasted her penalty low, and Korea’s no.1 almost kept it out as she got two hands to it, but the ball squeezed its way into the back of the net.
Although Norway were ahead by two goals, South Korea dominated possession in the second half and continued to throw numbers forward. This paid off and South Korea scored their first goal in this World Cup when Norway’s defence were unable to cope with South Korea’s attacking prowess. Lee plucked the ball down on the edge of the box and she backheeled through the legs of Ingrid Moe Wold to Yeo, who quickly took a touch and poked under Ingrid Hjelmseth in the Norway goal.
The closing stages of the clash ended frantically, with South Korea pushing for a draw, but the Scandinavians held on for dear life to ensure they came away with the three points.