By Stewart Clark at Lerkendal stadium
Rosenborg BK proved to be worthy equals of Premiership champions Arsenal FC in Trondheim, as the two sides served up a fast, fair and controlled match favouring attack as the best form of defence in this UEFA Champions League Group E game. Arsenal's early goal by Swedish international Fredrik Ljungberg was cancelled out by Norwegian international Roar Strand and both sides seemed content with a share of the spoils.
Rosenberg had to reshape their midfield when Ørjan Berg failed a fitness test prior to kick-off. Jan Gunnar Solli moved in from the wing and got his chance in a new central midfield role, with striker Harald Brattbakk introduced to give Rosenborg more punch up front. Otherwise, the Norwegian team fielded an unchanged lineup from the defeat at Panathinaikos FC a fortnight ago.
Meanwhile, Arsenal made a couple of changes to the team that beat PSV Eindhoven. With Gilberto sidelined for at least a month with a back injury and Dennis Bergkamp absent due to his fear of flying, Edu returned to the starting eleven along with Sol Campbell who is finding his way back after an achilles injury.
The home side started optimistically but an unmarked Ljungberg, five metres out, neatly tucked in the first goal after six minutes. The Swedish midfield player's strike was the result of a corner that was engineered by Thierry Henry's second sortie into Rosenborg's penalty box.
The Rosenborg defensive duo of Vidar Riseth and Christer Basma tried to contain Henry, but the Arsenal striker proved too good on a number of occasions. The Frenchman was a constant threat on the left wing, winning two more free-kicks just outside the area and a couple of corners. Rosenborg's defence held, though, and the shots were blocked or easily picked out by Espen Johnsen. With the exception of Henry, who was in a class of his own, it was a largely even first half.
Arsenal in command
Rosenborg had their chances, but with three corners and only one shot on goal the tone was set with Arsenal seemingly in control.
However, the Norwegian champions opened the second half with a thundering series of attacks. Midfield player Strand was unlucky with the direction of Rosenborg's first shot on goal in the opening few minutes of the second period, but made up with a well-placed shot that levelled matters in the 52nd minute. This was enough to awaken the 21,000 supporters in the Lerkendal.
Gunners fight back
This also gave Arsenal an adrenalin boost and they responded positively to the faster tempo. For 15 minutes the visitors' second goal seemed only a matter of time, with Henry and Ljungberg having more than their share of opportunities. Veteran Strand had to be replaced by Christer George in the 60th minute and perhaps the fresh pair of legs helped Rosenborg to ride the storm.
End to end
The game swung to and fro with chances at both ends, Patrick Vieira seeing a goalbound shot cleared off the goal-line by Mikael Dorsin as Arsenal pressed, while a Fredrik Winsnes free-kick drifted just over for Rosenborg. In the end though a draw was a fair result, giving Rosenborg their first point of this season's Champions League while Arsenal have four points after two games. The English champions next play Panathinaikos, with Rosenborg travelling to PSV on Matchday 3.