Norway's qualification bid for South Africa 2010 suffered a setback as they were held to a draw by Iceland in Reykjavik tonight. John Arne Riise had put the hosts ahead with a sweetly-struck free-kick after ten minutes before Eidur Gudjohnsen equalised on the half-hour to deny Norway three precious points.
Norway striker John Carew was unlucky not to have been awarded a second half penalty, but it would have been more than they deserved. The draw leaves Norway three points behind second-placed Scotland after they won 2-0 at home to Macedonia in Glasgow.
An eventful opening period was marked by Riise's thunderous free-kick with ten minutes on the clock. The former Liverpool defender lined-up the set-piece from 25 yards and blasted in a shot that left Iceland goalkeeper Gunnleifur Gunnleifsson with no chance of making a save.
Iceland stepped up their game after going behind and were deservedly on level terms when Gudjohnsen headed home. The away defence allowed the Barcelona attacker too much space and he made them pay by forcing his effort home.
Norway had been happy to get to the break on level terms and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty soon after the restart when Carew seemed to be felled. Kristian Sigurdsson looked to have fouled the Aston Villa striker but referee Alexandru Tudor waved play on.
Norway desperately sent players forward as they looked to secure a win to build on the momentum of their 4-0 victory over Scotland last time out, but despite their intentions they could find no way through the Iceland defence.
It leaves them level on seven points with Macedonia, who they meet in Oslo on Wednesday knowing that anything but victory could spell the end of their hopes of reaching next summer's FIFA World Cup™ finals.