Scandinavian weekly round up

by Ben Cullimore
ScandinaviaDanish Superliga – Round 26

After losing their spot at the top of the Danish Superliga last weekend, Midtjylland stumbled again this week and fell further behind new leaders Aalborg, who look on course to win their first league title since the 2007-08 season. This weekend’s defeat came away to Odense, with goals in either half from Martin Spelmann and Rasmus Falk condemning Midtjylland to a 2-0 defeat, their fourth in their last five league games.

With only seven games left to play this season, and with Aalborg in such fine form, Midtjylland desperately need to return to winning ways against struggling sides AGF and Viborg in their upcoming two games, or they risk not only failing to win their first ever Superliga title but also dropping further down the table and missing out on qualification for next season’s Champions League.

København remain hot on Midtjylland’s heels, and have reduced the gap between the two sides to just three points, thanks to their 1-0 win at home to AGF on Sunday afternoon. They had to strike late to gain all three points, however, with Belgian striker Igor Vetokele scoring his eleventh goal of the season in the 84th minute.

The win not only moves København nearer to Midtjylland, but it also increases the gap between themselves and their local rivals Brøndby, who were beaten 2-0 by Aalborg, thanks to a Lukas Spalvis brace. Both of the young Lithuanian’s goals were scored within four minutes of one another in the first half, and they bring his goal tally this season to nine in all competitions, with all of them being scored in his last six games. The 19-year-old has been in fine form since his inclusion in the side this spring after Anders Jacobsen suffered an injury that left him on the sidelines until last week, and he may prove to be the difference between Aalborg winning or losing both the league title and the Danish Cup.

At the bottom of the table, AGF remain in dire trouble, with this week’s defeat being their fourth in a row. They remain just two points clear of 11th-place Viborg, who, luckily for AGF, were beaten 3-1 by Randers. The win is a huge one for Randers, and is not only their second in as many games but is also only their second of 2014. Colin Todd’s side have struggled on the pitch for most of the season, but victories against relegation rivals AGF and Viborg have moved them up to eighth place in the table, three points ahead of both AGF and Vestsjælland, and just one behind seventh-place Nordsjælland, who were beaten 1-0 by fifth-place Esbjerg on Monday evening, with Norwegian 21-year-old Mushaga Bakenga scoring the only goal of the game on the stroke of half time.

Vestsjælland, who, like AGF, are teetering on the edge of the relegation zone, had the opportunity to pick up three much-needed points against relegation rivals SønderjyskE when the two sides met at Sydbank Park on Friday evening, but the bottom-of-the-table side were gifted a point when Vestsjælland defender Michael Lumb accidentally sent the ball into the back of his own net with one of the last kicks of the game, cancelling out Rasmus Festersen’s 38th-minute goal. The draw is their third in a row, and leaves them with just one win in their last 11 league games. Whilst they are not leaking goals at the back (they have conceded just four goals in their last five league games, which is equal with fourth-place Brøndby and just one goal more than København), Vestsjælland are finding it extremely difficult at the other end, scoring only 24 goals so far this season, which is worse than any of the other 11 Superliga sides. Draws desperately need to be converted into wins if they are to avoid dropping into the relegation zone in the final stages of the season.

Allsvenskan – Round 3

Malmö FF’s 100% record has continued into its third week after they beat Gefle 1-0 at home on Saturday afternoon. The league leader’s only goal was scored in the 63rd minute by Markus Rosenborg (his second goal in as many games) and the clean sheet gained by Robin Olsen means that Åge Hareide’s team are the only side not to concede a single goal in their opening three games of the new season.

Second-place Djurgården are the only side that are close to Malmö FF’s fine defensive record, after only letting in one goal so far in 2014. They were victorious again this weekend, beating Mjällby 2-0 away from home in Round 3’s opening game on Friday evening, with both of their goals being scored in the second half by Amadou Jawo and Erton Fejzullahu.

Åtvidaberg struck late twice to beat newly-promoted Falkenberg 2-0 on Saturday, with both of their goals coming in the final five minutes. After 85 minutes of goalless action, Nigerian striker John Owoeri opened the scoring with his first goal of the season, before Imad Zatara ruined Falkenberg’s chances of a comeback and wrapped up his side’s second win in their opening three games with his first goal since he scored the winner against Mjällby in September last year. The victory keeps Åtvidaberg equal on points with Djurgården in third place, and moves them above Örebro, who drop to fourth place as a result of their 1-1 draw against AIK. Örebro, like Åtvidaberg, also had to strike late to leave Friends Arena with any points, after newly-signed Finnish youngster Eero Markkanen scored his first goal for AIK after only six minutes, but Shpëtim Hasani, who scored Örebro’s late winner against Mjällby last weekend, was on hand to fire in an equaliser with eight minutes left to play. The Kosovar striker is in fine form at the moment, scoring nine goals in his last seven competitive games for last season’s Superettan runners-up, including a goal in each of the opening three games of 2014.

Four sides sit at the foot of the table with only one point so far this season, with two of them picking up their first point in their clashes this weekend. Brommapojkarna suffered narrow defeats to both Kalmar and Falkenberg in their opening two games of the season, but came from behind on Monday evening to pick up an impressive point against IFK Göteborg. They went a goal down after only 13 minutes when Robin Söder opened the scoring for last year’s third-place finishers, but defender Pontus Segerström equalised with little over 10 minutes remaining. Meanwhile, the other side that picked up their first point of 2014 was Halmstad, who held Norrköping to a goalless draw at Örjans Vall on Sunday.

The weekend’s most exciting game was surely Helsingborg’s clash at home to Häcken, which ended in a 4-2 victory for the hosts. Loret Sadiku opened the scoring for Helsingborg after just seven minutes, but two goals soon after (including a penalty scored by Martin Ericsson) put Häcken in front with just half of the first half played. However, Macedonian defender Leonard Zuta was shown a straight red card just three minutes after Ericsson’s successful penalty when he clashed with Emil Krafth, but Häcken managed to hold on to their lead for the rest of the first half. It would only last for 10 minutes in the second half, however, as Arnór Smárason tapped Mattias Lindström’s attempted shot into the back of the net to equalise for Helsingborg, before David Accam put them ahead 23 minutes later and Smárason doubled his goal tally in the 92nd minute with a long-range shot into an empty net after Häcken goalkeeper Christoffer Källqvist had ran up to the other end of the pitch for a last-minute corner.

Kalmar remain unbeaten so far this season after they drew 0-0 with Elfsborg on Monday evening. They could have, and arguably should have, been awarded a penalty in the second half, however, when David Elm was bundled over in front of goal by veteran defender Andreas Klarström, but, after consulting with his assistant, referee Stefan Johannesson waved play on, forcing Kalmar to settle for just a point.

Tippeligaen – Round 3

After two fantastic wins in their opening two games of the 2014 season, newly-promoted Stabæk were brought back down to earth this weekend when they faced a strong and determined Molde side in Bærum on Sunday afternoon. They were beaten 2-0 by the 2011 and 2012 league champions, with Björn Bergmann Sigurðarson opening the scoring with his second goal of the season midway through the first half, before Daniel Chima Chukwu, the club’s top goalscorer last year, scored his first league goal of 2014 and wrapped up the win with little over five minutes remaining.

The win moves Molde equal on points with Stabæk in second place, just one point behind Strømsgodset, who are one of only four sides yet to be beaten so far this season. After being held to a goalless draw by Viking last weekend, the reigning champions got back to winning ways on Sunday, beating Aalesund 2-0, although they left it late to score their two goals; veteran midfielder Øyvind Storflor scored their first in the 71st minute with a fantastic curling free kick, and substitute Thomas Sørum confirmed the victory with a goal of his own 13 minutes later. The game was also notable as it featured the appearance of Strømsgodset’s 15-year-old wonder kid Martin Ødegaard, who, quite aptly, replaced 36-year-old Péter Kovács with 18 minutes left to play.

The other three sides that, along with Strømsgodset, remain unbeaten after the opening three games of the season are Sarpsborg 08, Rosenborg and Viking, and the latter two were both victorious on Sunday and Saturday, respectively. Stefan Strandberg and Nicki Bille Nielsen scored at either end of both halves to help Rosenborg to a 2-0 win at home to Odd (their first victory in 2014 after frustrating draws against Viking and Aalesund in their first two games), whilst Viking, who also won for the first time this season this weekend, beat Lillestrøm 1-0 away from home, thanks to an 86th-minute winner scored by Jón Daði Böðvarsson. The 21-year-old Icelander has now scored three goals so far this season, with all of his goals being scored after coming off the substitutes’ bench, leaving Viking manager Kjell Jonevret to ponder whether or not to start the youngster ahead of fellow young talent Veton Berisha, who has started all three of Viking’s league games this season but has failed to score in any of them.

As for Sarpsborg 08, they were held to a 1-1 draw for the second consecutive week, this time at home against Start. They took the lead on the stroke of half time through a looping Steffen Ernemann free kick from the edge of the penalty area and looked to be heading away with their second victory of the season, but Rolf Daniel Vikstøl equalised in the 88th minute with a volleyed tap-in from a corner kick to deny Brian Deane and his men another impressive three points.

Haugesund were also on course for a victory this weekend – it would have been their first of the season after a draw and a defeat against Lillestrøm and Start, respectively – but they, too, conceded a last-minute goal in their game at home to Vålerenga. They took the lead just a minute before half time when Geir Ludvig Fevang poked the ball through the legs of Vålerenga goalkeeper Michael Langer, but, with the three points all but won, Dušan Cvetinović brought down substitute Alexander Mathisen just inside the penalty area in the 92nd minute, and Vidar Örn Kjartansson converted the resulting penalty to equalise with one of the last kicks of the game.

After two difficult opening games against Aalesund and Vålerenga, Bodø/Glimt were presented with an easier opportunity to win their first game of the season, which they duly took with both hands. They were involved in a six-goal victory against Sogndal at Aspmyra Stadion, coming from behind twice to beat the bottom-of-the-table side 4-2. A long-range Ulrik Flo goal after 15 minutes was cancelled out by Vieux Yakhya Sané just two minutes later, but Flo scored another wonderful effort from 25 yards out on the 36th minute to give Sogndal a 2-1 lead going into half time. However, Bodø/Glimt were on the front foot throughout the second half, and they were back in the game nine minutes after the restart through Dane Richards, before Senegalese strikers Pape Alioune Ndiaye and Mouhamadou Moustapha N’Diaye both scored their first goals of the season to help the northern side to their first Tippeligaen victory since August 2009.

It is safe to say that Brann have not had the best of times so far this season, losing their opening two games against newly-promoted sides Sarpsborg 08 and Stabæk, and it did not get much better this weekend, as they were only just able to draw 1-1 away to Sandnes Ulf, who have also struggled in their first three games of 2014. Brann had to come from behind to draw, too, after 20-year-old Chilean striker Diego Rubio fired Sandnes Ulf into the lead after just nine minutes with his second goal in as many games.

The hosts managed to stay in front until the 81st minute, when Kristoffer Larsen curled in a spectacular side-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area, winning Rikard Norling his first point as boss of Brann, although it is unlikely to be one that he celebrates particularly fervently, as he will be well aware that he has much work yet to do with his new side.

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