Belgium’s Vanhaevermaet on the spot for draw against Iceland at Euro 2022 | Women’s Euro 2022

Berglind Thorvaldsdóttir made up for her failed spot-kick with Iceland’s opening goal at Euro 2022 but it was cancelled out by Justine Vanhaevermaet’s successful penalty to ensure Belgium earned a point in east Manchester.

Coming into the tournament, Iceland’s star player Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir had described the prospect of playing at the Academy Stadium on the Etihad Campus, in the shadow of its big brother, as “embarrassing”. Her argument stood up as both ends were closed to spectators due to the fact Uefa do not permit terracing during the tournament. The capacity was reduced by a third – there were 3,809 inside the ground – although the Iceland thunderclap and those in possession of drums tried to make up for the absent thousands.

The heat dictated play in the early stages with both sides keeping one eye on the need to conserve energy on a pitch bathed in sunshine. While Iceland maintained possession, Belgium seemed intent on playing in a more direct fashion to get the ball to Janice Cayman as quickly as possible. Neither tactic resulted in either goalkeeper being tested in the opening half hour.

Iceland created the best opening when they won the ball back on the halfway, allowing Thorvaldsdóttir to slip the ball into the path of the onrushing Sveindís Jónsdóttir but she was unable to control the ball to put her through one-on-one with the goalkeeper. She was put under pressure by Jody Vangheluwe who saw the danger early and prevented what would have been a certain goal.

Belgium goalkeeper Nicky Evrard finally got a touch of the ball in the 33rd minute after a long delay as the VAR checked for a penalty when Jónsdóttir pinged a cross straight at Davina Philtjens from close range.

The ball went off for a corner but the referee, after seeing a replay, deemed the offence to be worthy of a penalty despite the proximity. Belgium need not have worried because Thorvaldsdóttir weakly put her penalty too close to the goalkeeper, allowing her to get down easily and hold on.

Iceland’s Berglind Thorvaldsdóttir scores against Belgium
Iceland’s Berglind Thorvaldsdóttir (in white) scores against Belgium Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Within two minutes of the restart Jónsdóttir showed her dribbling capabilities with a mazy run down the left, defeating two outwitted defenders before going through on goal. With the angle against her, Jónsdóttir went across the goalkeeper but Evrard’s outstretched leg diverted the ball up into the air and a defender completed the job by heading behind for a corner.

Evrard was left helpless moments later when Thorvaldsdóttir made amends for her earlier penalty miss. The striker lurked at the back post unmarked where she had enough space to head Karólína Vilhjálmsdóttir’s inswinging cross home through Evrard’s hands from close range without needing to get off the ground. Not everyone gets a second chance and Thorvaldsdóttir certainly enjoyed the moment, running away to a section of vociferous Iceland fans.

There was no requirement for VAR to get involved for Belgium’s penalty after Elena Dhont was clumsily tripped just inside the area by Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir. Vanhaevermaet kept her cool in the heat to send the goalkeeper the wrong way for a thoroughly undeserved equaliser.

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Iceland continued to have the majority of possession but Belgium came close to snatching a winner when Tessa Wullaert found space 20 yards from goal and looked to curl a shot beyond Sandra Sigurdardóttir but she was able to read the trajectory and palm the ball behind.

It was plain to see that Belgium struggled to deal with set pieces and crosses into the box. Iceland sent in a bombardment of corners and long throws for repeated games of pinball but each time the Belgians did just enough to clear and hold out.

Cayman thought she had won a penalty with two minutes left when she was brought down inside the area when trying to round the goalkeeper. The referee pointed to the spot but the glee was short-lived because the assistant referee’s flag was raised to ensure the match ended level.

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