Georgia’s Mikautadze Denies Norway Maiden Win in EURO 2024 Qualification Campaign with Equaliser
Georgia forward Georges Mikautadze denied Norway a maiden win of the EURO 2024 qualification campaign, with his second-half equaliser securing a 1-1 draw at the Adjarabet Arena in Batumi while making it just one loss in 14 for the Crusaders.
Ståle Solbakken’s side travelled having lost their previous three competitive fixtures, but the Scandinavian outfit cast aside any pre-match doubts after just 15 minutes. Alexander Sørloth stepped up in the absence of talisman Erling Haaland to give Norway the lead, with a powerful strike from the edge of the area that nestled in the bottom-right corner for his 17th international goal – and a first for his nation in any competition since last June.
Most recently featuring in any major competition’s finals at EURO 2000, Norway continued to dominate as the game approached HT. And their efforts very nearly yielded the second goal that their first-half performance deserved, when Mohamed Elyounoussi saw his effort saved by Giorgi Mamardashvili from point blank range. The rebound quickly fell to Fredrik Aursnes, but the Benfica midfielder couldn’t steer his shot goalwards and fired over the bar.
Eager to show the same attacking prowess that saw them beat Mongolia 6-1 in Saturday’s friendly, and rack up their third-biggest victory of all time, Georgia showed a renewed sense of purpose after HT. And Willy Sagnol’s side nearly equalised just six minutes after the break, when Otar Kakabadze broke into the box and drilled a low shot towards goal, only to be denied by a strong save from Ørjan Nyland.
Norway failed to heed that warning salvo, and Georgia did eventually get the goal they’d been threatening since HT on the stroke of the hour mark. Metz hitman Mikautadze broke through Norway’s uncharacteristically ponderous lines, before lashing a shot beyond Nyland to claim his third international goal for the Crusaders, finally kickstarting their latest attempt to reach a first-ever European Championships finals in the post-Soviet era.
Sørloth had a golden opportunity to restore Norway’s advantage with just under 20 minutes to play, but was denied after his effort from close range was superbly saved by Mamardashvili. Despite late pressure that saw Norway go close to snatching all three points through Martin Ødegaard, Georgia held on to kick-off their EURO 2024 qualification campaign with a well-earned point – also their first against Norway at the third competitive attempt.