Nordsjaelland fast learners after draw with Juve

Nordsjaelland showed FC Copenhagen are not the only Danish club capable of mixing it with the big boys by securing their first Champions League point with a 1-1 draw at home to Juventus on Tuesday.

Beaten away by Donetsk in their first game, the Danish champions then lost 4-0 to Chelsea in their first home tie before showing their ability to learn quickly on the job by frustrating the Italian champions.

"We're up against some giants in this tournament. It is David's battle against Goliath. We have to learn from game to game, and it's perhaps just some small things we have to improve and we'll get our first victory," said Nordsjaelland coach Kasper Hjulmand.

Hjulmand assured fans his side would not abandon the free-flowing football that brought the club its first Danish league title last season. But there were signs against Juventus, who came to Copenhagen unbeaten in 47 games, that he has rejigged his game plan.

Having often been punished for losing the ball in their own half, Nordsjaelland played long balls out of defence before establishing their passing game further up the pitch.

The upshot was that the Danes almost equaled Juventus in the possession with 48 percent to Juve's 52 percent, and though they allowed the Italians 30 shots on goal, many of these were from distance as Nordsjaelland maintained their defensive discipline.

The Danes also dealt comfortably with Juventus set pieces, despite the Italians having a clear physical advantage in terms of size and strength.

But one problem yet to be solved is a vulnerability to late goals. Of the seven goals they have conceded in this season's Champions League, five have come in the last 15 minutes.

Despite conceding a late equaliser to give Juve a share of the points, Nordsajelland's goal-scorer Mikael Beckmann said his side defended better for longer against the Italian champions.

"The difference was that we defended tooth and nail, which we probably didn't do to the very end against Chelsea," he told Denmark's TV3+.

It says a lot about how far Nordsjaelland have come that Andreas Laudrup, whose father Michael played for Juventus, said his side were disappointed not to win.

"Obviously it's annoying that they score nine minutes before time, but it's still a fantastic result. We were smart when we had the ball, but also when they were in possession," he said.

Nordsjaelland's chairman Allan K. Pedersen said he was delighted with the progress of Hjulmand and his team.

"They [Juventus] were disappointed, and that says something about how far we have come," he told the Danish radio station DR. "I would have been happy to take a draw before the game, but when I saw how the game developed I could see that, with a little luck, we could have won."

Defender Patrick Mtigila said his side would continue to cause problems.

"When we play our game and get our combinations going, we can make it hard for most teams. I think Juventus got a little to think about here," he said.


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