Scandinavian weekly round up

by Ben Cullimore
ScandinaviaDanish Superliga – Rounds 27 and 28

All 12 of the Danish Superliga sides were involved in two games each this week, as we enter the final five games of the 2013-14 season. The top four of the table remains unchanged for yet another week, but gaps have been reduced and positions are under threat after two of the strongest sides in the league failed to win the second of their two games.

Aalborg kicked off Round 27 with a fourth consecutive win, and their fifteenth of the season, away to struggling Viborg, who were reduced to ten men midway through the first half when Brazilian midfielder Wílton Figueiredo was shown a straight red card after clashing with Aalborg centre back Kenneth Emil Petersen. The 11th-place side managed to hold on until half time, but finally fell behind four minutes into the second half through a fantastic volley from the edge of the penalty area by Jakob Ahlmann Nielsen, who had never before scored a goal in a competitive game. Aalborg’s win was then wrapped up 11 minutes later when Viborg defender Jakob Egeris accidentally toe-poked Anders Jacobsen’s cross into the back of net.

However, when the league leaders were in action again on Sunday, they uncharacteristically slipped up, losing 2-1 at home to revitalised Randers side that are now unbeaten in their last four games after only managing to pick up eight points from the 10 games that preceded them. Their confidence was clear to see in the early moments of the game on Sunday, and they found themselves 1-0 up after only 11 minutes when Jonas Kamper fired them in front with a world-class strike from 25 yards out. The lead would last only 16 minutes, however, as Jakob Ahlmann Nielsen wrapped a great week for himself personally by scoring his second goal of his career five minutes later, but Ronnie Schwartz, the league’s second best goalscorer this season, put Randers back in front with what would prove to be the winner, a great back post header, with eight minutes of the first half left to play.

After two consecutive defeats, Midtjylland got back to winning ways on Friday with a 4-0 thrashing of a very poor AGF side. Petter Andersson put his side 2-0 up before half time with two goals in nine minutes, both of which were set up by captain Kristian Bak Nielsen, before young substitutes Pione Sisto and André Rømer (the latter of whom had never scored a professional goal before this week) joined him on the scoresheet in the second half.

Midtjylland then went on to complete a six-point week with a 5-2 win at home to Viborg, who are languishing at the bottom of the table, dangerously close to returning to the 1st Division after only one season in the top tier. An unfortunate own-goal from Patrick Jensen gave Viborg an unexpected 20th-minute lead, but Sylvester Igboun scored his ninth league goal of the season five minutes later to put the hosts back on level terms going into half time. 20-year-old midfielder Marco Larsen scored on the hour mark to finally put Midtjylland in front, and Petter Andersson then made it 3-1 19 minutes later. Andersson doubled his tally in the 86th minute, cancelling out Kevin Mensah’s strike two minutes earlier to pull a goal back for Viborg, before substitute Eyjólfur Héðinsson completed the win with a goal of his own with one of the last kicks of the game.

Midtjylland are now just one point behind Aalborg, and are also five points clear of third-place København, who were only able to draw with Esbjerg in their second game this week. The reigning champions narrowly beat Vestsjælland 1-0 on Thursday, with the game’s only goal being scored by Andreas Cornelius from the penalty spot five minutes before half time, but had a victory stolen from them in the last moments against Esbjerg on Monday evening. It looked as if they were going to finish their clash with all three points after first-half goals from Igor Vetokele and Cristian Bolaños had cancelled out Jakob Ankersen’s seventh-minute opener, but Esbjerg were awarded a penalty in the third minute of extra time, which Ankersen successfully converted to avoid defeat and extend his side’s unbeaten run to three games, after they also drew in the middle of the week when they met Randers, with their clash at Blue Water Arena ending 2-2.

The two points dropped leaves København just one point ahead of their local rivals Brøndby, who bounced back from a 2-0 defeat against Aalborg by winning both of their games this week. They beat bottom-of-the-table SønderjyskE 3-1 on Friday evening, thanks a quick-fire brace from Simon Makienok and an 89th-minute goal scored by Macedonian midfielder Ferhan Hasani, and then went on to come from behind to beat AGF 2-1 away from home on Monday. Kasper Povlsen scored in the 11th minute to give AGF, who are without a single point in over a month, a much-needed lead, but Thomas Kahlenberg and Andrew Hjulsager scored goals in either half to condemn the hosts to their sixth consecutive defeat.

AGF’s terrible run means that they enter the final five games of the season just one point outside of the relegation zone, now three points behind Vestsjælland, thanks to their 1-0 win at home to Odense on Sunday, after SønderjyskE picked up a huge three points at home on Monday to Nordsjælland, whose form over the course of the season has been erratic, to say the least. They narrowly beat Odense 1-0, thanks to a 10th-minute Joshua John goal and a particularly helpful dismissal for Anders Møller Christensen, who was sent off five minutes into the second half after being shown a second yellow card for a poor challenge on substitute Anders Christiansen, but then went on to lose 3-1 against SønderjyskE, who, before this week, had only won once in their last eight league games. The victory moves them off the foot of the table for the first time since October of last year, sending Viborg down in their place.

Allsvenskan – Rounds 4 and 5

Like the twelve Danish Superliga teams, the sixteen Allsvenskan sides were also all involved in two games this week, with games being played on Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

Reigning champions Malmö FF were victorious yet again in Round 4, winning away to Örebro – who, before Wednesday evening’s clash, were unbeaten in their opening three games of 2014 – thanks to goals in either half from Guillermo Molins and Pontus Jansson, helping their side to a 2-1 win in a game in which Örebro’s young Iraqi midfielder Ahmed Yasin (known in his homeland as the ‘Iraqi Cristiano Ronaldo’) scored his first ever Allsvenskan goal near the end of the second half.

However, after four wins from their opening four games of the season, Malmö FF’s 100% record was ruined on Monday evening, but they still remain unbeaten, as well as top of the table. They were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Djurgården, who took the lead through Haris Radetinac on the 15th minute. Guillermo Molins equalised for the hosts on the stroke of half time, and Magnus Eriksson then put them in front two minutes after the restart, but Erton Fejzullahu brought their lead to an end in the 71st minute with his third goal in as many games. Djurgården’s Ghanaian midfielder Yussif Chibsah was sent off after receiving a second yellow card three minutes into added time at the end of the game, but by that point the draw had already been confirmed.

Malmö FF already have an impressive lead at the top of the table so early in the season, and they go into Round 6 three points ahead of Elfsborg, whose two wins this week sent them up to second place. They narrowly beat the 2011 league champions Helsingborg 1-0 on Thursday evening, before going on to win 3-2 at home to Falkenberg on Monday. They were ahead after only four minutes through a Tobias Carlsson own-goal, and despite going behind in the latter stages of the first half when Anton Wede (a former Elfsborg player) and Stefan Rodevåg scored their first goals of the season, wrapped up the win with half-an-hour left to play, thanks to a second-half brace from youngster Marcus Rohdén.

Elfsborg finish Round 5 one point ahead of both Häcken and Kalmar, after both sides avoided defeat in their two games this week. Kalmar, who are the only other team alongside Malmö FF to still be unbeaten after the opening five games of the season, won 3-1 against Falkenberg before going on to draw 1-1 with sixth-place IFK Göteborg, who had thrashed Åtvidaberg 5-0 in the middle of the week to bring an end to two consecutive games without a victory, whilst Häcken won both of their games, comfortably winning 3-0 at home to Halmstad on Wednesday evening, before beating Mjällby in equally impressive fashion four days later, with a Simon Gustafsson brace and first half goals from Carlos Strandberg and René Makondele helping them to a 4-1 win.

Mjällby currently sit bottom of the table, but almost held on to beat Norrköping with just ten men at Norrköpings Idrottspark on Wednesday in their first game of the week, but had to settle for a point when Rawez Lawan scored an equaliser with 10 minutes left to play. Norrköping, who are now unbeaten in their last four games and sit in eighth place in the table, went on to beat AIK 2-1 in Stockholm on Sunday, thanks to a fifth-minute opening goal from midfielder Marcus Falk-Olander (his first since last September) and an own-goal from Martin Lorentzson half-an-hour later. The defeat brought an end to a mixed week for AIK, who won 3-2 against local rivals Djurgården during the week, despite almost losing their lead in the final moments of the game when their 3-0 lead, which had been intact since the 65th minute, was almost wiped out by Erton Fejzullahu and Haris Radetinac, who both scored in the final eight minutes of the game.

Equal on points with Mjällby in 15th place are Brommapojkarna, who, like Mjällby, are still without a win this season. They were easily beaten 3-0 by Gefle on Thursday, thanks to a first goal in Swedish football for Finnish defender Jens Portin and a brace from Marcus Hansson, before striking late against Örebro on Monday to win only their second point of the season. With the scoreline level at 1-1 going into the final moments of the game, Öster thought that they had gained all three points when 21-year-old Kalle Holmberg fired in his first goal of the season in the 89th minute, but Brommapojkarna were awarded a penalty in the fourth minute of added time, which Dardan Rexhepi successfully converted.

The goal is the youngster’s first in the league since his move from Malmö FF in January, and it helps his new side avoid falling to the bottom of the table, after former occupants Halmstad beat Helsingborg for their first league victory of 2014. Helsingborg have had a slow start to the new season, picking up only four points so far, and things got worse this week, with their latest defeat, inflicted on them by goals in either half from Johan Blomberg and Kristinn Steindórsson, leaving them in 12th place in the table, now one point behind Gefle, who had to settle for a 2-2 draw away to Åtvidaberg, after substitute Victor Sköld scored an 84th-minute equaliser for the hosts.

Tippeligaen – Round 4

Reigning champions Strømsgodset remain unbeaten and at the top of the table at the end of Round 4, thanks to a third win of the season this weekend. Their latest triumph came away to Sogndal, with goals from youngsters Marius Høibråten (his first in Tippeligaen) and Gustav Wikheim, as well as veteran striker Péter Kovács, helping them to a 3-1 victory, cancelling out Ørjan Hopen’s 10th-minute strike.

Only two other sides remain unbeaten alongside Strømsgodset, and only one of those were victorious. That side was Viking, who won 2-0 at home to Haugesund, thanks to first-half goals from newly-signed Icelandic defender Sverrir Ingi Ingason and fellow Icelandic international Steinþór þorsteinsson, whose goal was his first since moving from fellow Tippeligaen side Sandnes Ulf before the start of this season.

The other unbeaten side Rosenborg have not fared so well in their opening four games of the season, despite not losing a single game so far. They arguably possess the strongest team in the league this year and are also arguably favourites to claim the title, but have twice now thrown away leads in the dying moments of the game. Whilst this weekend’s was not quite as disastrous as their last (in their opening game of the season they threw away a 2-0 lead with three minutes left to play and ended up drawing 2-2 at home to Viking), it was just as damaging. 2-1 up against newly-promoted Bodø/Glimt and with just nine minutes left to play, Rosenborg dropped deep and attempted to wind down the clock, but ended up allowing former player Trond Olsen to fire in an equalising goal. The draw is Rosenborg’s third this season, and means that they finish Round 4 in seventh place, just one point ahead of Bodø/Glimt and equal on points with last year’s Norwegian 1st Division runners-up Stabæk.

Stabæk embarked on a great start to the season, but, after two fantastic victories in their opening two games of 2014, have now lost twice in a row. Their latest defeat came away to Odd, who, after a goalless first half, were 2-0 up with twenty-two minutes left to play, thanks to an own-goal from Argentinian defender Pablo Fontanello and a second goal of the season for Norwegian youngster Elbasan Rashani. Franck Boli pulled a goal back for the visitors six minutes after Odd’s second had hit the back of the net, but Odd held on to claim all three points, moving them up to sixth place in the table with a respectable seven points from their opening four games of the season.

Stabæk, now lying in eighth place, were the only side in the top half of the table to be beaten, with every other side bar Rosenborg being victorious. The most emphatic of the wins was easily Molde’s, as they came from a goal down to thrash Sarpsborg 08 5-1 at home. Aaron Samuel Olanare gave the visitors a 20th minute lead, but from then onwards it was all Molde, with Fredrik Gulbrandsen and Mohamed Elyounoussi both scoring braces, whilst 16-year-old substitute Sander Svendsen scored his first competitive goal for the club in only his third appearance to join the other two youngsters on the scoresheet.

Meanwhile, Start’s impressive start to the season continued with a fantastic 2-1 win against Aalesund, who, in stark contrast, have begun 2014 poorly. Start had wrapped up the win by the hour mark through Zlatko Tripić and Ernest Asante, and Daniel Arnefjord’s 89th-minute goal was a mere consolation, coming far too late in the day to have any hope of saving Jan Jönsson’s side from a second consecutive defeat.

The victory moves Start up to fourth place, equal on points with both Odd and Vålerenga, the latter of whom comfortably beat Sandnes Ulf 3-0 at home in Oslo, thanks to goals from Vidar Örn Kjartansson (his fourth in his last three games), Rasmus Lindkvist and Niklas Gunnarsson, all players that manager Kjetil Rekdal had brought into the club over the winter period after poor performances last year left them in eleventh place at the end of the season, their lowest finishing position since 2003, when they narrowly avoided relegation to the second tier after beating Sandefjord in a play-off game. Vålerenga now sit in fifth place in the table, whilst Sandnes Ulf are in 15th, occupying one of the two relegation spots.

After poor performances in all three of their first games of the season, Brann finally picked up their opening win of the season this weekend, beating Lillestrøm 2-0 in front of 10,000 relieved fans at Brann Stadion. Swedish striker Jakob Orlov scored both of the Bergensers’ goals in the second half, lifting some of the pressure off new boss, and fellow Swede, Rikard Norling, whilst also sending Brann up to 12th place, equal on points with Lillestrøm, who have now lost their last two consecutive games.

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