A third game without a win sees Nordsjælland slip out of the top three
After a disappointing campaign last season in which they finished outside of the top three of the Danish Superliga for the first time since before their title-winning season of 2011-12, Nordsjælland started this year in fantastic fashion, with the arrival of new manager Ólafur Kristjánsson having a great effect, as three wins from their opening four games saw them rocket to the top part of the table and assert themselves as a force to be reckoned with this year.
They stumbled slightly against Hobro and Brøndby in the following weeks, with the 3-0 defeat at home to the latter side being a particularly frustrating result, but showed their determination by bouncing back and winning three games on the trot, with one of those, a 2-1 win at home, coming against Midtjylland, who are arguably the team to beat this season, despite the fact that there are still 21 games left to play.
Kristjánsson’s side could be forgiven for only being able to draw 0-0 against Randers, who have also impressed in the opening stages of this season, but last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at home to SønderjyskE was arguably their worst since the eighth-place side beat them 3-1 at the end of last season, and highlighted the fact that things at Farum Park might not be quite as rosy as they once seemed.
That point was reiterated again this week as a lacklustre display against Aalborg resulted in a last-minute Pascal Gregor own-goal and a 1-0 win for the struggling reigning champions, leaving Nordsjælland without a win in their last three league games and sitting in fourth place ahead of tough back-to-back clashes against current league leaders Midtjylland and København, the latter of whom are, after a slow start to the new season, now unbeaten in their last five league games thanks to a 2-0 win away to Hobro on Sunday afternoon.
Whilst it is too early in the season to be panicking too much, Nordsjælland, who now sit eight points behind Midtjylland after the leaders drew 1-1 against SønderjyskE this weekend, really do need to return to winning ways soon, before it is too late for them to catch the high-flying Midtjylland.
Norrköping win yet again to complete their late season great escape
With just four games of the season left to play and with just one victory in their last 11 league games, Norrköping sat in the Allsvenskan relegation zone in 15th place and looked almost certain to be joining Brommapojkarna in Superettan next season after a tough end to what has been a disappointing campaign.
However, as is often the case with the Scandinavian leagues – particularly Allsvenskan, which is always thrilling and unpredictable – it only takes one good result to change everything, and that is exactly what Norrköping did. Refusing to let their 4-2 defeat against fellow strugglers Falkenberg get them down, they bounced back in perfect fashion by comfortably beating high-flying IFK Göteborg 3-0 three weeks ago, shocking everybody in the process and causing havoc at the bottom of the table.
Then they went on to beat Gefle 2-1 the week after to move themselves out of the relegation play-off zone and into 13th place, sending the latter side down in their place, and this week they confirmed their place in next season’s Allsvenskan in fantastic fashion, comfortably beating sixth-place Örebro, who had only lost once in their last nine league games before this weekend, 2-0 at home, despite the fact that they were reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes left to play when Marcus Folk-Olander was shown a straight red card, to win three league games on the trot for the first time since November 2012.
With just one game of the season left to play, Janne Andersson and his men sure did leave it late, but, after having to battle through a tough season that looked like it was going to end in relegation, they won’t care in the slightest.
A fourth consecutive defeat leaves Mjällby in serious danger of relegation
Norrköping’s win, and subsequent confirmation of their place in the top tier for next season, means that the battle to avoid relegation to Superettan is now firmly between Falkenberg, Gefle and Mjällby heading into next weekend’s final games of the season.
Falkenberg, who before this weekend had, in similar fashion to Norrköping, embarked on a fantastic three-game winning streak to turn their season around at the last moment, only needed a point to confirm their safety, but instead will have to battle it out right until the last whistle after they were thrashed 4-0 by ninth-place Halmstad on Sunday, with all four of the game’s goals coming in the opening 54 minutes.
The only positive for Henrik Larsson’s men is that they go into the final round unable to be automatically relegated, as Mjällby occupy the only relegation spot that is still available and sit four points behind them after they were beaten for the fourth game in a row this weekend.
The defeat came away to Kalmar, who, taking into account the fact that they were without a win in their last seven league games heading into Monday evening’s clash at Strandvallen, were the perfect opponents to face at this crucial point of the season.
They were unable to take advantage of Kalmar’s terrible form, however, and instead were beaten 2-0, after Tor Øyvind Hovda and Marcus Nilsson both scored in the first half to bring an end to the slim chances of the 11th-place side dropping into the relegation play-off zone at the last minute after what has, quite frankly, been a horrible end to a season that once looked so promising.
Just in front of Mjällby in the relegation play-off spot remain Gefle, who were also beaten this weekend to leave them in real danger of dropping into the relegation zone if Mjällby are able to pull off a win against Falkenberg in their last game of the season. This weekend’s defeat came away to fifth-place Häcken, who immediately gave their struggling opponents little hope of leaving Göteborg with anything after Simon Gustafsson and Martin Ericsson both scored in the opening 18 minutes to give them an early lead.
Despite Gefle’s best efforts of initiating a comeback midway through the second half when Johan Oremo reduced the deficit to just one goal with little over 20 minutes left to play, they were unable to find a way back into the game, and substitute Carlos Strandberg condemned them to their 14th defeat of the season with a third Häcken goal in the 91st minute.
As a result, Gefle head into the final weekend of the year hoping that they are able to beat 10th-place Helsingborg, who were comfortably beaten 3-0 by IFK Göteborg this week, whilst also praying that Mjällby can beat Falkenberg. However, if Mjällby win against Falkenberg and Gefle lose against Helsingborg, it will be Gefle that drop into the relegation zone and are subsequently relegated to Superettan, bringing an end to their 10-year stay in the top flight.
Wins for Bodø/Glimt and Haugesund confirm their places in next year’s Tippeligaen
It has been a nervy season for Haugesund and Bodø/Glimt, but, with just two games of the year left to play, both sides were able to confirm their safety from relegation to the Norwegian 1st Division this weekend after both were victorious in crucially important games against teams from either end of the table.
Haugesund’s win was arguably the most impressive of the two, and, quite possibly, the best of the entire round, as they confirmed their place in the top flight for next season with a fantastic 3-2 victory at home to fourth-place Strømsgodset, thanks to goals in either half from Christian Gytkjær and Dušan Cvetinović and an 88th minute strike by Brazilian striker Daniel Bamberg, which helped to cancel out a late brace from Péter Kovács that would have earned his side a much-needed point.
However, despite the Hungarian veteran’s best efforts, he was not able to save Strømsgodset from another disappointing defeat, one that brought an end to their four-game unbeaten streak and means that the highest position that they are now able to finish in is fourth, after third-place Rosenborg comfortably beat bottom side Sandnes Ulf 3-1 to pick up their fourth consecutive league victory.
The win means that Haugesund head into their penultimate game of the season against Stabæk nine points clear of the relegation play-off spot in 12th place, whilst Bodø/Glimt, who, in stark contrast to Haugesund, who had won their last two games before this weekend, were without a win since the end of August as a result of a poor run of form, remain just one point behind them in 13th place thanks to their incredibly important 2-1 victory at home to fellow strugglers Brann, with both of their goals being scored by Abdurahim Laajab in the first half, with the second of the two coming from the penalty spot with just three minutes of the opening period remaining.
Another disappointing defeat leaves Brann with just two games to save their season
Bodø/Glimt’s win, and, subsequently, Brann’s defeat, means that Brann’s only hope of avoiding relegation to the second tier is by finishing above Sogndal in the relegation play-off spot and beating whichever 1st Division contender is thrown at them next month.
However, with the Bergen side in such poor form at the moment – this weekend’s loss was their fourth in a row, and they have only managed to score three goals in that time – it is starting to look increasingly unlikely that they are going to be able to pull themselves out of the drop zone at the last minute. Next weekend’s clash at home to Sogndal, which is guaranteed to be one of the most fiercely contested games of the season, is more than a must-win game, as a defeat there will spell the end.
Their only crumb of comfort can come from the fact that Sogndal themselves are enjoying a spell of torrid form at the moment, with their last three league games ending in defeat, but, unlike Brann, two of those three came against sides that currently sit in the top half of the table, with this weekend’s defeat being an agonisingly narrow one at home to Molde, who were only able to beat the 14th-place side thanks to a first-half goal from impressive youngster Mohamed Elyounoussi.
Of the three sides that currently still have a chance of avoiding automatic relegation to the second tier (Sandnes Ulf are also included as they sit just two points behind Brann in 16th place), Brann arguably have the most “winnable” end to the season, but, as they have proved all season long, there are no longer any games that can be described as “winnable” for a side that for so long were used to causing problems in the top half of the table.
They now have just two games left to save their season, or else they will be forced to play in the 1st Division for the first time since 1986, a fate that was unthinkable when they started what they were hoping was to be a promising season way back in March.