STEVEN DAVIS equalled Pat Jennings’ 34-year-old record of 119 caps for Northern Ireland in Belfast last night but while the evening will be a memorable one for the midfielder on a personal note, it was a game to forget for Ian Baraclough’s men as Norway ran out comfortable 5-1 winners.

The Northern Irishmen salvaged a draw in their opening Nations League fixture against Romania on Friday night after falling behind and having former Kilmarnock striker Josh Magennis sent off in the first half, with Gavin Whyte’s late equaliser ensuring a share of the spoils.

Magennis’ dismissal in the previous game ensured his side were up against it from a relatively early stage; against Norway, another moment of adversity arrived within 90 seconds. Former Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen floated a delicate ball in towards the back post, where current Parkhead winger Mohamed Elyounoussi was waiting to cushion the ball with his first touch and poke it past Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the hosts’ goal with his second.

It would have been understandable if Northern Ireland were rattled by that early goal but instead they replied with one of their own minutes later. Conor Washington, who was on the books at Tynecastle last season, chased onto a loose ball and forced Rune Almenning Jarstein into a stop but the rebound fell to the feet of Paddy McNair, who gleefully prodded the ball into an unguarded net to level the scores.

The quick equaliser was testament to the character of this Northern Ireland side but the response from Norway demonstrated an even more impressive sense of resolve. The visitors stormed up the pitch immediately, eventually resulting in Norwegian superstar Erling Braut Haaland thundering the ball home after Alexander Soerloth’s cushioned header.

Lars Lagerback’s men started to impose themselves on proceedings and there was a degree of control about the Norwegians that reaped further rewards with 19 minutes on the clock. Left-back Haitam Aleesami charged up his wing and curled a wonderful first-time cross in towards the back post, with Soerloth converting from close range to double his side’s advantage.

Davis spurned an opportunity to reduce the deficit when he skelped the ball over from the edge of the box and almost cost his side a fourth with an uncharacteristically soppy back-pass towards the end of the first half, but that aside was his usual composed self in the middle of the park.

Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer enjoyed a fairly quiet evening at centre-back and was rarely pressured in possession while Elyounoussi’s link-up play was effective, with the on-loan Southampton man a constant threat on the left wing.

Hearts striker Liam Boyce was introduced at the interval as Baraclough looked to add a greater attacking threat to his side but the game was put beyond their reach within 90 seconds of the restart. Haaland sped away from Craig Cathcart and slid the ball across goal for Soerloth to tap in his side’s fourth and all but kill the game.

Haaland made it five on the hour mark with another superb finish to extinguish any faint hopes of a Northern Ireland comeback as the match became an exercise in damage limitation for the hosts.

The remainder of the second half resembled an exhibition game, with the two sets of players happy enough to simply go through the motions as the clock ticked relentlessly towards an inevitable Norway victory.

Davis will have the chance to make history next month and become Northern Ireland’s most-capped player should he feature against Bosnia & Herzegovina, and the 35-year-old will surely be hoping to mark the occasion with an improved performance from his team. Compared to last night, it could hardly go any worse.