By Jim Wirth
The performance that earned them a 1-1 draw against AFC Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA on Tuesday may not have been a classic, but it was a fitting end to a great week for Rosenborg BK.
With coach Nils Arne Eggen preparing to retire at the end of the club's UEFA Champions League campaign, the point in Amsterdam ended a run of nine consecutive defeats on their travels in the group stages and provided the perfect finale for a week in which Rosenborg lifted their eleventh consecutive Norwegian title.
Yet their success in Norway was a somewhat low-key affair. Rosenborg were not actually on the pitch to celebrate their historic achievement. Having drawn 2-2 at Sogndal IL on Saturday, it was a 4-2 defeat for their only remaining challengers, Molde FK, at Stabæk IF the following night that sent the title to Trondheim again with two games of the season remaining. The title was toasted with a feast of lemonade and pizza but, if the celebrations seemed muted, that did not effect Eggen's sense of elation.
"It has been a very hard competition this year," he told uefa.com. "At one point we were ten points behind the leaders but our autumn performance was more intelligent and more consistent than that of our opponents. We are obviously very pleased but right now our focus is on the Champions League."
With the Ajax game now out of the way, a lesser coach may well have turned his thoughts towards his impending retirement, but Eggen did not earn his reputation as one of the great motivators of modern football by taking his foot off the gas.
Eggen's coaching system through all eleven of his Norwegian championships has emphasised physical fitness, defensive discipline and teamwork - with the accent on the work. The Champions League is where all of that discipline has come into play in the last decade. Not blessed with the financial resources of most of their European opponents, Eggen has always known that it takes absolute commitment for his side to earn results.
'We have to be lucky'
"We are very realistic about our performance," said Eggen. "We had to play at 100 per cent at Lerkendal against Ajax and Internazionale [FC]. That's our reality. It is difficult to win at home and more different to win away. We have to be lucky with the youngsters we bring up."
Bottom of Group D with three points from four games, it is possible that only an away game at Inter and a final home game against Olympique Lyonnais stand between Eggen and retirement, although he is set to stay at the club in some capacity until he turns 67.
"I think I deserve to think about something else other than football which I've been doing for the last 42 years," Eggen said as he announced his retirement earlier this season. "Ambitions? I could say that I have fulfilled my ambition, taking Rosenborg to several league and cup titles. But, of course, if you are still in the game it is because you still have ambitions. My ambition today is for Rosenborg to take an eleventh league title in a row and to do well in the Champions League." Mission accomplished.
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