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Norway's Holy Venue: Lerkendal Stadion the European Ascent

Updated on August 22, 2019
Antonio Martinez1 profile image

Antonio Martinez graduated from Montclair State University with a BA in History and a double minor in Russian Area Studies and Journalism.

Lerkendal Stadion in Trondheim, Norway hosted the 2016 UEFA Super Cup, the first time a Norwegian venue had hosted a major club cup final
Lerkendal Stadion in Trondheim, Norway hosted the 2016 UEFA Super Cup, the first time a Norwegian venue had hosted a major club cup final | Source

Trondheim is a city of churches and cathedrals in Norway. It is only fitting that this city also maintains a footballing mecca that has grown into one of Europe's notable stadiums for club football.

After nearly seven decades since its opening in 1947, Trondheim's Lerkendal Stadion evolved into a venue that has seen European club matches contested. This extensive list includes various UEFA Champions League and other European club competition matches. In 2016, Lerkendal Stadium hosted an event unprecedented in Norway. When Spanish clubs Real Madrid and Sevilla played the UEFA Super Cup Final on Aug. 9, 2016, history unfolded at Lerkendal Stadion as it became the first stadium from Norway to host a European club final.

1985: A Packed House to Watch a Champion

Nearly Thirty-Five Years On

The event enhanced a prestigious honor for Norway considering that Lerkendal Stadion was at one point an old stadium just over a quarter-century ago. The stadium lacked modernization, and without necessary renovations, Lerkendal Stadium would never have even been eligible for hosting any European matches.
Right now in addition to the 2016 UEFA Super Cup, Lerkendal Stadium has been a cathedral of sorts for Rosenborg and other clubs.

For all the drama and all the games that Lerkendal Stadion has witnessed over seven decades, one game still stands above all. It is a match that more than 30 years later, the attendance for this game still stands as the highest attendance for any event at Lerkendal Stadion. It was Oct. 13, 1985, as Rosenborg and Lillestrøm met in the season finale at Lerkendal. This event became a de facto league title game as the league winner would come out of this match. A draw would be enough to give Lillestrøm its first league title in eight years as the club led in the standings since Round 4.

However, Rosenborg stayed within Lillestrøm throughout the season as the club finished second in scoring with 43 goals in the 22-game schedule. Sverre Brandhaug and Gøran Sørloth each scored ten goals during the season. However, the crucial 43rd goal came from a defender. He was playing in his first season for Rosenborg, and with 65 minutes elapsed in the season finale, Trond Sollied fired the shot that sent Rosenborg and Lerkendal Stadium into a frenzy.

Lillestrøm had suffered a bitter defeat, and Rosenborg hung to win its most unlikely of the 22 titles the club has earned as of 2014. Rosenborg's season finale at home against Lillestrøm in 1985 saw an attendance record of 28,569.

It would also start a golden era for Lerkendal Stadium. Perhaps no stadium in Europe has meant more for club football more than Lerkendal Stadium.

Lerkendal in 1997, when the first stands were upgraded to conform to standard stadium settings. By 2002, Lerkendal had all four grandstands modernized.
Lerkendal in 1997, when the first stands were upgraded to conform to standard stadium settings. By 2002, Lerkendal had all four grandstands modernized. | Source

Fun Times on the Domestic Front

The 1985 season finale saw Lerkendal have a memorable event happen, one that was often common in the 1960s when Rosenborg was beginning to be a relevant power in Norway. By 1988, a former player revitalized Lerkendal, employing a new philosophy of coaching never before seen.

A year earlier, he guided another Norwegian club, Moss, to a league title. In 1988, Nils Arne Eggen began the fourth stint for Rosenborg, and this time, the rewards would help Rosenborg reach unprecedented heights in Norway's soccer history. Rosenborg won the league title in 1988 and 1990, but an impressive streak first came on Oct. 18, 1992. This date was the season finale in Norway's Tippenligaen as Rosenborg looked to avenge an earlier loss in the season as it faced Kongsvinger. This match was another de facto title-clinching event in which Rosenborg led Kongsvinger by three points before this game. However, a 6-0 victory by Kongsvinger would give the visitors the league title. A 6-0 result did happen at Lerkendal. It went in favor of Rosenborg.

Rosenborg only led 1-0 at halftime when the club scored at will. Five more goals came in 18 minutes, beginning with a player who co-led the team in scoring seven years earlier, Sørloth recorded a hat trick to make it 3-0 after 65 minutes. Goals by Tore Andre Dahlum, Kåre Ingebrigtsen, and Øyvind Leonhardsen helped Rosenborg finish with 43 goals scored at Lerkendal for the season.

Four years later, Rosenborg repeated that feat as the club stormed through the league title while amassing a substantial plus-67 goal differential. Eggen's attacking philosophy helped Rosenborg make Lerkendal Stadium a formidable venue for the opposition, particularly in the 1990s. Rosenborg amassed a 44-match unbeaten streak in the domestic league between 1994 and 1998. Between 1988 and 2004, Rosenborg lost a total of only 19 top-flight games.

Even when Rosenborg lost three home games in 2000, Lerkendal Stadium still witnessed another lopsided victory en route to a league title. As of 2014, he is third all-time in scoring in Norway's Tippeligaen and not to mention a journeyman throughout his playing career. In 26 minutes, Petter Belsvik scored a hat trick in the second half as Rosenborg clinched its ninth consecutive league title. The title-clinching game began with a fourth-minute goal by Roar Strand, and after Bent Skammelsrud had scored his second goal of the match, Rosenborg had gone on to win Bryne 9-0.

In 2004, Rosenborg survived a close call with nearest rivals Vålerenga on goal difference to win a 13th consecutive league title. One of eight Rosenborg players to have led the league in scoring, Frode Johnsen helped Rosenborg overcome a painful 58 minutes in its season finale against Lyn Oslo. Johnsen scored a hat trick as Rosenborg won 4-1.

Steffen Iversen (R) of Rosenborg battles for possession in a UEFA Intertoto Cup match against Netherlands's NAC Breda on July 27, 2008. Rosenborg won 2-0 to secure the Intertoto Cup and a berth at the UECA Cup
Steffen Iversen (R) of Rosenborg battles for possession in a UEFA Intertoto Cup match against Netherlands's NAC Breda on July 27, 2008. Rosenborg won 2-0 to secure the Intertoto Cup and a berth at the UECA Cup | Source
Yssouf Kone (7) and Vidar Riseth (10) celebrate during a UCL group stage match on Oct. 24, 2007. Both players scored the only of the match as Rosenborg won 2-0.
Yssouf Kone (7) and Vidar Riseth (10) celebrate during a UCL group stage match on Oct. 24, 2007. Both players scored the only of the match as Rosenborg won 2-0. | Source

Rosenborg's First UCL Group Stage Game

Welcome to Europe and Lerkendal

By 1990, Norway hosted its last international fixture to date when it lost 2-1 to Denmark. Five years after establishing an attendance record, Lerkendal needed more than a significant event to boost its attendance. The stadium required renovations to rival with other European stadiums, including conformation to stricter guidelines. Otherwise, Lerkendal would not be allowed to host European club matches.

In 1995, Lerkendal witnessed European club competition. Three years later, Lerkendal had installed the first of what would be four new grandstands, the last of which came in 2002.

A stadium that has seen Lillestrøm, Vålerenga, Molde, Stabæk and Lyn Oslo play would recognize many other European giants and minnows play matches. In 1995, Lerkendal saw Rosenborg defeat Turkish club Besiktas 3-0. In the following month, Lerkendal hosted its first-ever group stage match of the UEFA Champions League (UCL). It was Rosenborg's 2-1 victory over England's Blackburn Rovers, with Karl Petter Løken and Ståle Stensaas scoring the goals for Rosenborg.

More matches came here at Lerkendal. In 1996, Rosenborg got a lone goal from Skammelsrud to help Rosenborg secure a crucial 1-0 victory over IFK Göteborg. The result helped Rosenborg recover and reach its first-ever quarterfinal of the UCL. In the following season, Rosenborg defeated three teams in the UEFA Champions League: Olympiacos 5-1, Porto 2-0 and Real Madrid 2-0. Some of the giants that visited Lerkendal even struggled, and perhaps the best example is that of Italy's Juventus. In its three visits to Lerkendal, Juventus left the stadium with three 1-1 draws, including one at a 1997 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

Norway's all-time leading scorer, Rushfeldt became the first Norwegian player to score a hat-trick in the UCL; his goals were the only goals in Rosenborg's victory against Galatasaray on Oct. 21, 1998. Two years later, Frode Johnsen also scored a hat trick - this would help Rosenborg throttle Sweden's Helsingborg 6-1. Finally, in 2007, Abdou Razouk Traore added another hat trick in assisting Rosenborg to eliminate Kazakh club FC Astana 7-1. When it did play for the group stages in 2007, Rosenborg won 2-0 against Valencia on Oct. 24, 2007, - a result that still saw its coach sacked after the game due to its domestic struggles.

Also of note is a trophy Rosenborg won at Lerkendal despite finishing fifth in its national league in 2007. On July 28, 2008, Rosenborg overturned a 1-0 deficit against Dutch club NAC Breda as it won to win 2-0 in the second leg.

The winning goal came from Steffen Iversen, son of Odd Iversen.

Formidable

Rosenborg led 2-1 in a match against IK Start on Oct. 4, 2009, but allowed two late goals to lose the match 3-2. This loss at Lerkendal was the only game Rosenborg lost in the Tippeligaen during both the 2009 and 2010 seasons..

Rosenborg and Lillestrom in action during a 2010 Tippeligaen match in Round 8 on Apr. 25, 2010 at Lerkendal Stadium. The match finished scoreless as part Rosenborg's unbeaten season that year.
Rosenborg and Lillestrom in action during a 2010 Tippeligaen match in Round 8 on Apr. 25, 2010 at Lerkendal Stadium. The match finished scoreless as part Rosenborg's unbeaten season that year. | Source

Scalping in the Norwegian Fortress?

For Rosenborg's successes at its home stadium, Lerkendal has also seen history unfold. However, it was not the fortress that made Lerkendal an essential place for visitors. That was the case in 2005 when Rosenborg struggled during the domestic league as it lost five home games that season, including two surprises.

Early in the season on Apr. 24, Lars Blixt scored on a penalty kick as it proved to be the difference for Fredrikstad in winning at Lerkendal. That early-season victory proved crucial as Fredrikstad ultimately avoided a relegation playoff at the end of the season. Four months later, on Aug. 28, 2005, an 84th-minute goal from Jo Tessem also proved critical for Lyn Olso.

Lyn Oslo secured its first victory at Lerkendal for the first time since 1968 as the club finished third that season. The 1-0 win came three months Lyn Oslo defeated Rosenborg at Ullevaal Stadium, also for the first time since 1968.

Three years later, Rosenborg lost four home games during the season, including its season finale. Along with its losses to Fredrikstad, Tromsø, and eventual champions Stabæk, but it suffered a season finale loss to Bodø/Glimt. The 3-1 result would be Bodø/Glimt's first victory at Lerkendal since 1963.

Between 2011 and 2014, Rosenborg lost eight home league games, but some proved painful, as one game in 2012 on a date dear to Norway and its citizens. It was May 17, which is also Norwegian Constitution Day. Since 1981, Rosenborg hosted a regular-season game on the day before (except in 1993). Rosenborg suffered its first loss of the season against Hønefoss. That game helped Hønefoss finish one point ahead of Sandnes Ulf to avoid a relegation playoff. Less than six months after the loss to Hønefoss, Rosenborg lost its penultimate match of the season, 1-0 loss against Fredrikstad, its opponents suffering relegation a week later.

If the two losses 2012 were not bad enough, then what happened in the previous year could also be depressing. On Oct. 30, 2011, Rosenborg and Brann met in the highest-scoring game of that season, played at Lerkendal: a Brann 6-3 victory over Rosenborg. The result at Lerkendal officially secured the first league title for Molde FK, led by manager and Norwegian legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

Finally, it is not often Lerkendal hosts games in the Norwegian Cup, but that was the case on June 4, 2014. Rosenborg last won the Norwegian Cup in 2003 as they faced Ranheim. Despite leading 2-0, Rosenborg failed to hold on to the lead, and its match finished 2-2 in regulation. Bendik Bye helped Ranheim overcome a 3-2 deficit to upset Rosenborg as Bye scored twice in extra time, and Rosenborg lost 4-3 in extra time.

The symbol of the UEFA Champions League at center field in Lerkendal Stadium as Rosenborg prepared to host  Chelsea in a 2007 group stage match.
The symbol of the UEFA Champions League at center field in Lerkendal Stadium as Rosenborg prepared to host Chelsea in a 2007 group stage match. | Source

Looking to Return to Glory in Europe

Rosenborg hosted a recent UEFA Europa League group stage match on Oct. 1 as it faced tournament runners-up Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. For Lerkendal and Rosenborg, results had not always been so pretty as the venue went from a house of horrors for Europe's elite clubs to stunning results against unheralded clubs.

A case can be made that trend started on Nov. 28, 2007. On this date, Rosenborg faced Chelsea in a UCL group stage match. Over 21,000 people were in attendance, the largest for Lerkendal as an all-seater in a European club competition. Rosenborg looked to prove its earlier 1-1 draw at Chelsea two months earlier was no fluke. A victory would put Rosenborg on the verge of a knockout berth.

However, Rosenborg suffered a devastating 4-0 defeat. That would be the same score Valencia won when the Spanish club travelled to Lerkendal for a UEFA Cup group stage match. The result would be different from 2007 as Valencia exacted revenge.

Two years later, Lerkendal became a turning point for a club that had just won its first league title in its centennial year. Of the 32 nations that played in the UCL group stage, the biggest shock was the Czech Republic's Viktoria Plzen. The club won all six qualifying games it played to reach the group stage.

That included a 1-0 victory in the third qualifying round. If that was not bad enough for Lerkendal, then what unfolded three weeks later was simply even more stunning and in the end fatal. A scoreless draw on Aug. 18, 2011, ultimately helped Cypriot club AEK Larnaca qualify for the UEFA Europa League group stage at Rosenborg'.

Like in 2015, Rosenborg needed four rounds to reach the Europa League group stage in 2012, but one stunning result comes to mind. It was July 19, 2012, as Rosenborg hosted FC Ordabasy, a Kazakh club from the city of Shymkent. The visitors overturned a 2-0 deficit at Lerkendal by scoring twice, with Gueye Mansour scoring three minutes into stoppage time that almost proved disastrous for Rosenborg.

Over the next two years, St. Johnstone of Scotland (2013) and Sligo Rovers (2014) each won at Lerkendal. Another club got the chance to record another famous scalp, as this Turkish club debuted in Europe due to other situations from other clubs despite finishing seventh in Turkey's top flight. Many thought that Kardemir Karabükspor would have a rough debut as it faced a Norwegian giant. However, Karabükspor did the unthinkable, and Hazan Özmert scored ten minutes before halftime in the second leg.

That was the away goal that eliminated Rosenborg at home.

More than Rosenborg? Yes That is True!

It can be easy to forget that Lerkendal was originally home to two clubs: Freidig and Kvik.

An interesting fact is that Rosenborg was the not the only Norwegian club to be designated a home team in a European club competition. Who else has had that honor? That club would be FK Bødo/Glimt and it faced German club Werder Bremen on Sept. 16, 1999, in a first round UEFA Cup match. This game was held at Lerkendal Stadium became FK Bødo/Glimt's home stadium, Aspmyra Stadion, was about to undergo a stadium expansion.

Over the course of half a century, Lerkendal has risen to become one of Europe's world-class stadium. Many games had made history for so long as Lerkendal Stadium has become a symbol of Norwegian. Club football made this once small stadium relevant.

The 2016 UEFA Super Cup has make Lerkendal Stadium relevant in Europe.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Antonio Martinez

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