Winning through the hard way

Road to the final: Swedish contenders Djurgården/Alvsjö faced tough opponents and tight ties in every round.

By Paul Saffer

Recently-formed Djurgården/Alvsjö may have been entering their first UEFA Women's Cup this season, but they were immediately installed among the favourites.

Umeå rivalry
Arising from a merger between Djurgårdens IF DFF and five-time Swedish champions Älvsjö AIK FF prior to the 2003 campaign, the new club ended Umeå IK's three-year reign as title-holders by a single point. Sara Johansson's late equaliser secured a vital 1-1 draw in the penultimate week of the season, revenge for an earlier 4-1 league defeat and Swedish Cup semi-final reverse. Since Umeå went on to keep up their run of always reaching the UEFA Women's Cup final and comfortably retained the trophy, Djurgården/Alvsjö had an impressive line of form.

Group success
Seeded into the second qualifying round, Djurgården/Alvsjö met Arsenal LFC, AE Aegina of Greece and Spain's Athletic Club on home territory in Group B2. Aegina were dismissed 5-0 but in the next game Athletic grabbed a surprise two-goal lead inside 20 minutes before Victoria Svensson struck twice late in the first half and Kristin Bengtsson claimed a late winner to take Djurgården/Alvsjö through with a game to spare. However, they were pipped to first place by Arsenal, who won the decider 1-0, leaving Djurgården/Alvsjö unseeded in the quarter-final draw - where they were paired with Umeå.

Domestic duel
Three days before the first leg, Umeå overcame their rivals 6-2 in the final league game of the season, although Djurgården/Alvsjö had already retained the championship. However, in the opening European encounter Bengtsson and Linda Fagerström struck early and although Laura Kalmari scored late on, Djurgården/Alvsjö won their home leg 2-1.

Cup win
In the return, Malin Nykvist scored on 51 minutes to give Djurgården/Alvsjö a 3-1 overall triumph against a team they then beat again to win the Swedish Cup the following week. For good measure, Kalmari joined Djurgården/Alvsjö for 2005 - though was cup-tied in this competition - while Thomas Dennerby stepped down as coach to join the Swedish national team set-up and was replaced by Mikael Söderman.

Arsenal avenged
Old friends Arsenal awaited in the last four. Staging the first leg in the Råsunda stadium, Djurgården/Alvsjö needed Elin Ekblom to cancel out Julie Fleeting's opener for a 1-1 draw. However, Svensson scored 39 minutes into the return for the only goal against an Arsenal team later to lose Leanne Champ to a red card. 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam lie in wait in the two-legged final.

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