DO NOT talk to the Swedes about Sven Goran Eriksson. Not only does their most famous "Sven" manage a rival country but he is even stopping their domestic teams from winning now. An Italian goalkeeper discovered by Eriksson and recommended to Ipswich by the England manager produced an inspired performance last night to maintain Portman Road's proud record of never having seen a home defeat in 26 years of European competition.
The Matteo Sereni show kept Helsingborg at bay and gave his side a puncher's chance of progressing to the third round of the Uefa Cup. They did it in the last round against Torpedo Moscow, but on this showing Sereni will need to be at his agile best again in the return leg in a fortnight's time if he is to deny the Swedes what looks their rightful passage.
"They frustrated us by defending in numbers," George Burley, the Ipswich manager, said and, indeed, he had called it right, warning that Helsingborg would be "very useful on the break". Burley had also known that this was a side that had excelled on the road in the Champions' League last year, holding Internazionale and the eventual champions Bayern Munich, to draws on foreign turf.
Ipswich were, therefore, quick to prey on the defensive frailties, shown by Helsingborg in the Swedish League this season in which they lie fourth with only a handful of games remaining. The home side's industry was almost rewarded as early as the sixth minute when a Mark Venus corner fell at the feet of their own Scandinavian, Hermann Hreidarsson. The Icelandic defender's ball inside the area found Finidi George, but the Nigerian striker's shot ricocheted off the crossbar.
After surviving this typical English welcome the Swedes suddenly found their way and proved their speed on the counter in the 17th minute when the ball was moved from Christopher Andersson on the right to Alvaro Santos and then to Hans Eklund in the area at a startling pace. Fortunately for Ipswich, the veteran international's right-foot shot spun past Sereni's right-hand post. …