Scandinavian weekly round up

by Ben Cullimore
ScandinaviaDanish Superliga – Round 29

With just four games left to play, the top two Superliga sides, Aalborg and Midtjylland, are threatening to break away from the rest of the top half of the table challengers, and the fight for the title looks as if it is going to be a two horse race that goes down to the wire.

After a poor 2-1 defeat at home to Randers last weekend, Aalborg were in danger of losing top spot if they were unable to return to winning ways when they faced Odense away from home on Saturday. Luckily for them, they were able to pick up all three points, but only just. Despite going ahead after only nine minutes thanks to yet another Lukas Spalvis goal, the league leaders were 2-1 down just minutes into the second half, after a Kasper Risgård own-goal brought the hosts back on level terms in the 47th minute, and a first goal of 2014 for young talent Bashkim Kadrii put them ahead just a minute later.

Odense remained in front until the 72nd minute when Spalvis, ever the saviour for his club, despite his young age and top level inexperience, struck again to make it 2-2, and Risgård made up for his earlier error by heading in what would prove to be the winning goal eight minutes later. Odense players and fans were furious at the final whistle after they were denied two clear penalties in the final moments of the game, ones that could have helped them to pick up a much-needed three points. Instead, they have now lost their last three league games in a row and sit in eighth place, just five points clear of the relegation zone.

Aalborg’s win meant that they would stay at least one point ahead of Midtjylland at the end of Round 29 no matter what result the second-place side managed to record this weekend, but, luckily for the league leaders, their fellow title chasers were unable to pick up their third win in a row, instead having to settle for a point after a goalless draw away to fifth-place Esbjerg on Monday evening. The two points dropped means that Midtjylland are now three points behind Aalborg, and the latter side are surely now, if they were not already, favourites to wear the Superliga crown come May 18th.

It was a poor weekend for reigning champions København, who are looking increasingly unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League tournament after suffering another disappointing loss. Their latest came away to sixth-place Nordsjælland, who were gifted the three points in the 72nd minute when Morten Nordstrand’s headed effort bounced off the goalpost and hit goalkeeper Kim Christensen (who was making his first appearance for the club in almost a year) on the back before trickling over the goal line.

The defeat leaves København six points behind Midtjylland – and a Champions League qualifying spot – as well as equal on points with local rivals Brøndby, who are now unbeaten in their last three league games. They were only able to draw this weekend, however, as they had to fight from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at home to a determined Vestsjælland side that found themselves two goals ahead after less than half-an-hour. Baring any major slip-ups, both København and Brøndby should qualify for next season’s Europa League, as both sit seven points in front of an Esbjerg side that are finding it hard to convert draws into victories.

Things remain as tight as ever at the bottom of the table, as, arguably, any of the bottom five sides could find themselves being relegated to the second tier in less than three weeks’ time. AGF were beaten again this weekend, losing 3-0 against Viborg in a game that was all too easy for their fellow relegation candidates. The win is Viborg’s first in over a month, and it moves them out of the relegation zone and up to 10th place, albeit just one point clear of both SønderjyskE and AGF.

As for AGF, they finish the week bottom of the table, after SønderjyskE picked up a huge point with a 1-1 draw against in-form Randers on Friday evening. SønderjyskE face Viborg at home in their next clash before meeting AGF in the penultimate game of the season, and victories there could well guarantee them another year of Superliga football.

Allsvenskan – Round 6

At the end of Round 6, the top three sides remain unbeaten, whilst all of the top six sides showed their undeniable class by picking up well-earned victories.

Malmö FF still lead the way after they won for the fifth time this season, beating Norrköping 2-1 away from home on Monday evening. They were made to fight for the three points, however, as Magnus Eriksson’s 47th-minute opening goal was cancelled out by an Al-Hadji Kamara goal (the Sierra Leonean youngster’s first since his move from Värnamo at the end of last year) with just nine minutes left to play, forcing Emil Forsberg into saving the day with a winning goal just three minutes later.

The victory means that Malmö FF’s lead remains at three points, and second-place Elfsborg remain their main challengers. The 2012 league champions have now won their last three games in a row after beating Halmstad in emphatic fashion, despite going behind midway through the first half. Mikael Boman put Halmstad ahead with his first goal of the season in the twenty-third minute, but Elfsborg were back on level terms just two minutes later through Lasse Nilsson, and another goal from Nilsson, as well as an own-goal from Fredrik Liverstam and a first goal for the club for Viktor Prodell, wrapped up a comfortable 4-1 victory.

Just one point behind Elfsborg are Kalmar, who won 2-0 away to Gefle on Monday, thanks to first-half goals from Sebastian Andersson and Måns Söderqvist. They are then followed by Djurgården, IFK Göteborg and Örebro, who are all tied on 11 points in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively. All three sides were also involved in narrow wins this weekend, with each of them coming against sides struggling in the bottom half of the table. Djurgården had to rely on an 83rd-minute Aleksander Prijović goal to win 3-2 at home to Brommapojkarna, who valiantly fought from 2-0 down to make it 2-2 with little over 20 minutes left to play, whilst Örebro won by the same scoreline at home to Åtvidaberg, albeit in much more comfortable fashion after going into the half time break with a three-goal lead, and IFK Göteborg were only able to beat Falkenberg 1-0 after they were awarded a penalty in the 84th minute, which 21-year-old Sam Larsson successfully converted.

The defeats mean that Åtvidaberg, Falkenberg and Brommapojkarna sit in tenth, fourteenth and fifteenth place, respectively, at the end of Round 6, with the latter side being one of only two sides yet to record a victory this season. The other side are Mjällby, who remain bottom of the table with just two points – the same as Brommapojkarna – after they were beaten 3-1 away from home by Helsingborg, who themselves have had a rough start to 2014, managing just two victories and one draw.

Meanwhile, Häcken fought from a goal down twice to draw 2-2 at home to AIK on Sunday, meaning that they finish the week in seventh place and unbeaten in their last three games. As for AIK, a lackluster start means that they are two points behind in ninth, equal on points with both eighth-place Norrköping and tenth-place Åtvidaberg ahead of their clash against Helsingborg next Monday evening.

Tippeligaen – Round 5

In typical Tippeligaen fashion, there were more upsets this week, leaving three strong teams in the bottom half of the table, whilst two underdogs continue to trouble the big guns near the top.

The three strong teams that find themselves in poor positions at the end of Round 5 are Brann, Aalesund and Haugesund, who sit in 13th, 14th and 15th place, respectively. Brann are the only one to have recorded a victory – a 2-0 win at home to Lillestrøm that came last weekend – but they were brought back down to earth by Rosenborg, who, despite going behind after just 14 minutes when Bergen-born 19-year-old Kasper Skaanes (who would score his side’s second goal on the hour mark) put Brann in front, hammered them 5-2 on Sunday, thanks to two penalties late in the second half, which were converted by Alexander Søderlund and Nicki Bille Nielsen.

Haugesund were also beaten, losing 3-0 at home to a Sogndal side that before this weekend had not won a league game in 2014 and had scored more than one goal in a league game only twice since last July. Mahatma Otoo, Hjörtur Logi Valgarðsson and eighteen-year-old Bjørn Inge Utvik all scored their first goals for the club in Sogndal’s most emphatic league win since their 4-0 victory against Odd in March 2012.

As for Aalesund, they were able to hold Lillestrøm to a goalless draw on Monday evening to pick up their third draw of the season. Whilst Aalesund are not leaking goals at the back (they have conceded less goals than Rosenborg, who are unbeaten and sit in fourth place), they are finding it increasingly difficult to score goals, with Leke James, who scored 10 times for them last season, yet to find the back of the net after five disappointing games. Things could get worse for Jan Jönsson’s struggling team next week, as they host an incredibly strong Viking side, who are one of only three sides yet to be beaten this season and have conceded only two league goals in 2014. They were victorious again this weekend, scoring twice within the first 20 minutes to beat Start 2-0 in Kristiansand on Sunday evening and extend their winning streak to three games.

The three points keep Viking just one point behind second-place Molde, who also recorded their third straight victory this weekend with a 3-1 win away to Sandnes Ulf, thanks to first-half goals from Matthias Moström and Fredrik Gulbrandsen, as well as a last-minute third goal of the season for talented youngster Mohamed Elyounoussi. Sandnes Ulf remain bottom of the table for another week with just two points, and they face another tough clash next weekend against Stabæk, who bounced back from two straight defeats by winning 2-1 against Bodø/Glimt to move up to fifth place in the table, equal on points with Rosenborg.

Sarpsborg 08, the other underdog causing trouble near the top of the table, also won this weekend, after going three games without a win and suffering a crushing 5-1 defeat away to Molde in their last league game. They comfortably beat a lackluster Vålerenga side 3-0 at home at Sarpsborg Stadion, with Franck Dja Djédjé, Aaron Samuel Olanare and Bojan Zajić all hitting the back of the net within an 18 minute period towards the end of the second half. Zajić, a former Vålerenga player, rubbed salt in the wounds of his former club after wrapping up the victory with the third goal of the game by mocking Kjetil Rekdal in his post-goal celebration, a move that the Vålerenga coach described as “childish”.

Meanwhile, reigning champions Strømsgodset remain unbeaten at the top of the table for yet another week after they won for the fourth time this season (and the third game on the bounce). They beat Odd 2-1 at home, with both of their goals, scored by Péter Kovács and Lars Sætra, being scored in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Odd, who have now lost twice this season, with both defeats coming in their last three games, drop to ninth place in the table, equal on points with both eighth-place Start and seventh-place Vålerenga.

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