Strand shows Arsenal the dangers of holding back

Rosenborg 1 Arsenal 1
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The Independent Football

This is the city where the kings come to be blessed and Arsenal arrived as the new royalty. The hero-worship had hit such a pre-match pitch that the Rosenborg coach, Ola By Rise, had felt moved to chastise the fans and local media, pointing out that the visitors were still mortal after all. And last night they showed it.

This is the city where the kings come to be blessed and Arsenal arrived as the new royalty. The hero-worship had hit such a pre-match pitch that the Rosenborg coach, Ola By Rise, had felt moved to chastise the fans and local media, pointing out that the visitors were still mortal after all. And last night they showed it.

It was a careless display by Arsenal and it resulted in a frustrating draw. Their progression through this Champions' League match was less than regal. Goodness knows the last time they gave the ball away so much and snatched at so many chances. If they are to take the crown next May they will have to play a lot better.

"It is disappointing," said Arsène Wenger, who then accused his players of being "cautious and not audacious" once ahead. "I feel we did not want to make mistakes," he said. And in trying not to do so, they made more than usual. "We wanted the three points," Wenger added. Nevertheless they top Group E and this time last season and they were bottom of their group.

It was Rosenborg's 100th European Cup match, which is not only a cause for celebration for the Norwegians, but also a formidable record for such a small club. The Norwegians burnt with a fierce pride and Arsenal felt it. Porto were the last team to win here ­ in September 2001. In 13 ties the Troillungan (Troll Kids) are unbeaten.

Rosenborg, who have been Norwegian champions since 1992, are also proud of the fact that they have just one foreigner in their team ­ and he is a Swede. Mikael Dorsin lined up to mark his compatriot Fredrik Ljungberg but he was nowhere to be seen on six minutes.

A corner from Thierry Henry, who had won it with a skidding shot, struck Frode Johnsen and bounced out to Patrick Vieira who turned the ball back towards goal. Ljungberg reacted fastest and Arsenal were ahead. It deflated Rosenborg who had started aggressively with long, diagonal balls to their three forwards.

Wenger shifted his formation, pushing Robert Pires through the middle, asking him to play the Bergkamp role. It made for an open contest and Henry released Ljungberg who, clear, tried to find Pires instead of shooting. At the other end and, after lax marking by Vieira, Edu turned away a dangerous cross by Roar Strand.

Arsenal, although threatening, were increasingly sloppy and almost paid for it straight after the restart when Fredrik Winsnes's clever pass inside the defence was lofted across by Oyvind Storflor, only for Johnsen to angle his header over. Then Sol Campbell's mis-hit clearance fell to man-of-the-match Strand whose shot struck the defender.

In almost an immediate re-run Strand made amends. Again it was Storflor who was the provider. He cut the ball back, after Edu lost possession, and Strand side-footed high into the net. Moments earlier and Ljungberg had again tried to find a colleague rather than shoot, and Henry's effort was blocked, while when the Swede did have an attempt on goal, just 12 yards out, he miscued badly.

Jose Antonio Reyes, who played poorly, fired into the side-netting, Henry screwed a shot across goal and then Vieira, clear, tried to cross again, instead of shooting, while Reyes, once more, blazed over. It was maddening and Arsenal ran out of time. They wanted to win. They had the opportunities. But they could not take them.

Rosenborg (4-3-3): E Johnsen; Basma (Russell, 74), Riseth, Hoftun, Dorsin; Strand (George, 64), Solli, Winsnes; Brattbakk (Braaten, 82), F Johnsen, Storflor. Substitutes not used: Ronningen (gk), Hansen, Stensaas, Helstad.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Lauren, Touré, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg, Vieira, Edu, Pires (Van Persie, 82); Reyes, Henry. Substitutes not used: Alumnia (gk), Fabregas, Flamini, Cygan, Pennant, Clichy.

Referee: F Meyer (Germany)

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