The night of 23 October 2012 will be almost as big a date in the history of FC Nordsjælland as 23 May this year, when the club won their first Danish title.
Mikkel Beckmann's wondrous free-kick on 50 minutes was not quite enough to earn his side a Group E win against Juventus, but Nordsjælland's first goal in the UEFA Champions League was something worth celebrating. So too was their first point, after Mirko Vučinić struck nine minutes from the end to give the Serie A team a 1-1 draw.
When Nordsjælland beat AC Horsens 3-0 in May to confirm that maiden Danish championship and a place in the group stage, they were following in the footsteps of more established local clubs FC København, Brøndby IF and Aalborg BK – Denmark's only other group stage representatives. Yet where FCK broke new ground in 2010/11, becoming the first Super League side to reach the round of 16, not even the most optimistic fans in Farum expected Nordsjælland to attain such heights – especially after the departures of key players in defender Andreas Bjelland and winger Tobias Mikkelsen.
The arrival of Dutch flanker Joshua John lifted the Zealand team, though, and with eight league goals so far he has played an important part in moving Nordsjælland up to third place in the domestic table.
However, expectations remain low: tellingly, Nordsjælland received nothing but praise despite losing their opening UEFA Champions League fixtures, 2-0 at FC Shakhtar Donetsk and 4-0 at home to Chelsea FC. In such circumstances, it is easy to see exactly what an achievement that first point against Juventus represents for Kasper Hjulmand's men.
One of Denmark's largest newspapers Ekstrabladet put it this way: "On a wonderful evening at the Parken, the boys from Farum made their mark on the international stage. Danish champions Nordsjælland created nothing less than a European sensation by drawing against Italian champions Juventus. It was the Farum club's greatest result ever, based on a fantastic first half and a fighting effort without equal in the last 45 minutes, when Juventus were really putting pressure on them."
The result has clearly raised spirits in the camp, with left-back and former Danish international Patrick Mtiliga saying: "It was important for us to send the message that we are more than just a team who can knock the ball around. Of course, it was annoying that they equalised so late. At that time another film was running in my head – one in which we got three points – yet a draw was a fair result in the end."
Goalscorer and Denmark forward Beckmann, however, had belief even before etching himself forever into the club's annals. "I believed I would put it away," he said. "It was a great feeling for me to score a goal and for the team to get on the scoreboard – in terms of goals as well as points." And now they have started, Nordsjælland can begin to dream of where they might end up.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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