When Rosenborg caught Real Madrid cold
Saturday, August 6, 2016
UEFA.com remembers Real Madrid's first visit to Trondheim – the night, in 1997, the Lerkendal reverberated to the strains of "We don't need Zidane because we've got Roar Strand".
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It is not often Real Madrid freeze on the big occasion, but they could have been forgiven for doing so on their first visit to Trondheim in November 1997. Nils Arne Eggen, Rosenborg's then manager, remembers the night vividly. "It was very cold, about minus eight to ten Celsius," he says. "No snow on the pitch, only cold."
The snow was not far away. It had been shovelled off to the sides of the Lerkendal pitch, letting the undersoil heating do its job to ensure the game went ahead. With two matches left in the group stage, Madrid were close to securing a quarter-final place. Rosenborg knew they probably needed two wins to progress as one of the best group runners-up. In bitterly cold Trondheim, the heat was on Norway's serial champions.
Yet Rosenborg had extra motivation for the Spanish title holders' visit. This was to be Eggen's last European home fixture before a sabbatical. Still in his fourth spell in charge, he had transformed Rosenborg's fortunes spectacularly, with six straight league titles banked when Madrid came calling that 27 November evening.
For Eggen, now 74, it was a particularly poignant occasion. "Real Madrid are special because of their history," he explains. "They were the first foreign team I knew. They were very strong in the 1950s when I was growing up."
They were a potent force in 1997 too, boasting the quality of Raúl González, Fernandos Hierro, Redondo and Morientes, and Clarence Seedorf. When Rosenborg had visited the Santiago Bernabéu two months before, they were briefly level at 1-1 before succumbing 4-1. But Eggen saw no reason to change strategy.
"It's very important you have the same procedure," he says. "We do the same thing before matches if we are playing Norwegian teams or Real Madrid. It's a question of being calm enough. I wasn't worried about playing Madrid but we had to be realistic and see the reality of playing in the Champions League. Every game was very difficult. But we were good at home."
Midfielder Roar Strand, one of Eggen's most reliable and important players, took inspiration from the team's togetherness. He recalls: "Player for player Real Madrid had a better team, but we had a good team and we knew each other very well. That was our strongest part. We had excellent team spirit."
Rosenborg were on their winter break, while Madrid's season was in full swing. All the hosts could do was train, yet Eggen – today an adviser at the club – was unfazed by the lack of match practice, dedicating himself to getting his squad in the best shape possible to spring a shock. Strand says: "Nils is a magical man. He is incredible on the training field. He was really special because he gave everything."
On the night, in front of 19,000 passionate supporters, there was an early escape for Rosenborg when Hierro's free-kick hit a post. Then Rosenborg took the lead. Strand says: "It started up the left, André Bergdølmo and then Mini Jakobsen against their right-back. Usually when a guy gets to the byline you have forwards at the near and far posts and I went to the near post and had a free header."
Strand had timed his run perfectly and neatly directed his effort out of the reach of Santiago Cañizares. If Madrid were stunned, Rosenborg's reaction was just as crucial. "Always if you get one goal, you go for a second," says Strand. "You don't sit back. The second goal was marvellous, from Harald Brattbakk."
Jakobsen was involved again on the left, cutting the ball back for his team-mate to fire a stunning half-volley into the net from 15 metres. Strand had scored three minutes before half-time, Brattbakk eight minutes into the second half to make it 2-0.
Though Madrid threw everything at Rosenborg thereafter, this would be their sole reverse en route to the UEFA Champions League title. Eggen's side, however, ultimately missed out on the quarter-finals. "It was a very equal game but in front of goal we were very effective and could have scored more," Strand recalls. "Lerkendal is special for us. For every team their home ground is a little easier than away from home. There was a special atmosphere.
"I loved the Champions League because we were winning in Norway all the time, so we were looking forward to the big matches. We beat a lot of big teams at the Lerkendal."
And none bigger that Madrid, who for once had to accept defeat. As the Rosenborg faithful bellowed that night: "We don't need Zidane because we've got Roar Strand."
This article is from the official UEFA Super Cup programme. Get your copy here.