Northern Ireland 1 Norway 5
Northern Ireland were made to pay for a makeshift defence as Norway scored three times in the opening 20 minutes on their way to a 5-1 Nations League victory at Windsor Park.
With Jonny Evans and Jamal Lewis both missing from the matchday squad, Northern Ireland were repeatedly exposed at the back with Bailey Peacock-Farrell – the hero of Friday’s 1-1 draw in Romania – unable to do anything as Mohamed Elyounoussi, Erling Haaland and Alexander Sorloth all scored early goals.
There had been time during a frantic opening sequence for Paddy McNair to score a fifth-minute equaliser, but second-half goals from Sorloth and Haaland saw Northern Ireland concede five at home for the first time since 2003.
Played out amid the echoes of an empty Windsor Park, it was certainly not the night Ian Baraclough was hoping for in his first home game in charge – and it will come as a chastening experience with the Euro 2020 qualifying play-off away to Bosnia and Herzegovina next on the agenda in October.
Steven Davis lined up to earn his 119th cap, equalling the Northern Ireland record of Pat Jennings, but the team-sheet contained plenty of other surprises.
Jonny Evans missed Friday’s trip to Romania for what were described as “personal reasons” but had trained with his team-mates after their return and was said to be available – with Leicester posting a message of good luck to their centre-half on social media in the morning.
But he was absent from the matchday squad along with Jamal Lewis, the Norwich left-back understood to be closing on a move to Newcastle, with Baraclough saying before kick-off both players were out with “niggles”.
That left Daniel Ballard, who had spent much of the time since his impressive debut in Bucharest in an ice bath after cramping up, to start again alongside Craig Cathcart with Shane Ferguson and Michael Smith starting in the full-back positions.