A penalty 12 minutes from time rescued a 1-1 draw for Norway against adventurous Romania as the sides met in Oslo in UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 2.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær stepped up to stroke the equaliser past Bogdan Lobont from the spot after the Romanian captain, Cristian Chivu, was penalised for handball in a crowded area as the home support in the Ullevål stadium began to get restless.
It was the only blot in Chivu's copybook as he set about steering his side, lit up by Adrian Mutu's fancy footwork, to what would have been an unexpected victory thanks to Ioan Ganea's calmly taken 64th-minute goal. As it stands, a point will do Romania's chances of qualifying no harm - but Norway have now dropped five points in as many days after their 1-0 defeat against Denmark at the weekend.
Evidently desperate to return to winning ways, Norway started brightly despite the heavy rain and almost found themsleves ahead early on. Just six minutes had elapsed when Cosmin Contra conceded a free-kick which was drilled in low and struck the left-hand post after a clever touch from Solskjær before a relieved Lobont smothered the loose ball.
Employing a rapid attacking game utilising Solskjær's fast breaks and the height of Valencia CF striker John Carew, Norway continued to press but were denied by an organised Romania defence, marshalled superbly by Chivu, whose brightest moment was an outstanding interception as Solskjær seemed certain to turn in Carew's square pass on 13 minutes.
The best chance of the first half fell to the visitors when Mutu drilled a pass across the face of goal only for Ganea to be denied at point-blank range by Frode Olsen, the 35-year-old Norway goalkeeper. Two good opportunities fell in Norway's direction as the interval approached. First John Arne Riise stabbed the ball straight at Lobont from the edge of the area. Then, in added time, the ball broke to Solskjær, whose powerful effort drew a fine parry from Lobont.
Ganea on target
Romania's best spell followed the half-time break and for 20 minutes they were the only side in contention. Daniel Pancu went close with a 51st-minute header and then the goal came. Mutu bravely set Ganea through and although he still had two defenders to beat, Henning Berg and Ronny Johnsen contrived to let the striker muscle his way through before watching on helplessly as he placed the ball past the advancing Olsen.
It seemed that might be enough but even after the penalty which brought the equaliser, Chivu almost made amends when he dived in to toe a low cross goalwards - but Olsen made a save to ensure a share of the spoils.
Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu said: "We played well, especially in the second half, and dominated most of the play. We were robbed." But Norway coach Nils Johan Semb insisted: "We deserved to lead by the the break. They got a bit lucky with their goal although we ran completely out of steam in the second half."