Norway hold on for 2-1 win in Cyprus
First-half goals from John Arne Riise and John Carew made it three wins out of three for Norway in Group H.
Two first-half goals ensured Norway kept up their winning start to UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying despite a late fightback by Cyprus.
Both teams made good starts in Group H last month, Norway beating Iceland and Portugal, while Cyprus held the latter 4-4. The Norwegians kept that going before the break in Larnaca, John Arne Riise and John Carew delighting the 2,000 travelling fans with goals, but Yiannis Okkas, on his 100th appearance, pulled one back with 32 minutes to go to ensure a nervy finish.
It took only two minutes for Norway to go in front with a swift counterattack, Erik Huseklepp releasing Riise to beat Antonis Georgallides with a cool left-footed finish. Norway had another chance on the quarter-hour but Huseklepp saw his effort cleared off the line by Georgos Merkis before Morten Gamst Pedersen’s follow-up shot was well blocked by Georgallides.
Only in the 39th minute did Cyprus fashion a chance, Michalis Konstantinou heading Efstathios Aloneftis’s clever cross high and wide. Instead, three minutes later, Norway doubled their advantage after another flowing move. Pedersen found Carew in the box and the striker skipped past Elias Charalambous before shooting into the bottom corner.
Cyprus emerged for the second half in positive fashion as Andreas Avraam had a powerful shot brilliantly tipped wide by Jon Knudsen. Just before the hour Constantinos Makridis chased a long ball to set up Okkas who marked his century of caps with his 24th goal. On 68 minutes the busy Aloneftis shot straight at Knudsen from close range and the ball rebounded off the bar. Aloneftis hit the crossbar again with an ambitious lob from just over the halfway line but Cyprus must now hope for better in Denmark on Tuesday. Norway’s next game is at home to the Danes on 26 March and, with this third win, they go into the winter break in a strong position.