Scandinavian weekly round up

by Ben Cullimore

Scandinavia

Danish Superliga – Round 30

AGF’s chances of avoiding relegation from the Danish Superliga diminish with every week, as, with just three games left to play, time is rapidly running out for last season’s seventh place finishers. Monday evening’s game at home to Odense, a side that had failed to pick up a point in their last three consecutive games and were in danger of slipping into the relegation zone themselves, was a must-win affair for Jesper Fredberg and his deflated side, but a 77th-minute Bashkim Kadrii goal ended all hopes of a first victory in almost two months for the hosts and instead gifted the visitors the opportunity to move seven points clear of the relegation zone and, arguably, all but guarantee their inclusion in the Danish Superliga next season.

As for AGF, the defeat is their eighth in a row and leaves them bottom of the table, three points from safety in the form of 10th-place SønderjyskE, who, once again, avoided defeat this weekend. After looking dead and buried for so long this season, the side from Haderslev have now picked up points in their last three consecutive league games, with two of those ending in victories. This weekend’s win was arguably their most important, as it moved them out of the relegation zone, sending Viborg, who they beat 1-0 on Sunday, thanks to a Daniel Jensen goal on the stroke of half time, down in their place. Viborg have tough clashes against København, Nordsjælland and Esbjerg to deal with in their final three games of the season, meaning that SønderjyskE, who still have to play AGF away from home, are arguably in the better position to avoid dropping to the 1st Division.

At the top of the table, Midtjylland were able to regain first place after Aalborg slipped up for the second time in their last three games. The latter side were beaten 2-0 at home by Esbjerg on Saturday, who went ahead through Austrian attacker Martin Pušić nine minutes into the second half before his Dutch strike partner Mick van Buren scored for the first time since December of last year with one of the last kicks of the game.

Aalborg’s defeat meant that Midtjylland were able to host struggling Vestsjælland on Sunday safe in the knowledge that a victory would send them back to the top of the table, and that’s exactly what they did, thanks to goals from Jakob Poulsen, Morten Rasmussen and 20-year-old Marco Larsen, which cancelled out Rasmus Festersen’s 32nd-minute successful penalty. After playing Nordsjælland next weekend, Aalborg face Vestsjælland and AGF in their final two games of the season, whilst Midtjylland must see off Brøndby and København before ending their season away to SønderjyskE. Whilst Aalborg arguably have the easiest of the final games, their recent form has been somewhat erratic, to say the least, and it is certain that the race for the title is going to go down to the wire.

No matter who is crowned the champion of the Danish Superliga come May 18th, both Midtjylland and Aalborg are all but guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League, as København and Brøndby sit eight points behind them in third and fourth place, respectively. The two local rivals met each other in the København Derby at Parken on Sunday, but they had to share the points after the fiercely fought clash ended 1-1. The victory was almost Brøndby’s, however, as they went into the final moments of the game a goal ahead, thanks to a 73rd-minute José Ariel Núñez goal, but København stole a point with mere minutes left to play when substitute Thomas Delaney rose high to equalise with only his third goal of the season.

Brøndby are now unbeaten in their last four league games, whilst København have failed to win any of their last three, and both sides are in danger of losing their Europa League qualifying places to either fifth-place Esbjerg or sixth-place Nordsjælland, who both sit just five points behind. Esbjerg, who have lost only once since the middle of February, look the most dangerous, whilst Nordsjælland have now won three of their last four games, after they beat eighth-place Randers 1-0 away from home in the round’s opening game on Friday evening.

Allsvenskan – Round 7

Malmö FF were finally beaten for the first time this weekend, leaving Kalmar as the only side yet to lose a league game in 2014. The reigning champions lost 2-1 at home to Häcken, who found themselves two goals ahead after only seven minutes had been played, thanks to a quick-fire brace from Dutch striker Moestafa El Kabir, who has now scored five goals in his last four games and six so far this season, already half of the amount that he managed last year in his impressive first season for the club. Malmö FF were reduced to 10 men just seven minutes into the second half when Pontus Jansson was shown a second yellow card, and the same happened to Häcken 14 minutes later when Walid Atta, recently signed from Helsingborg, earned his first red card for the club. Malmö FF took advantage of Atta’s dismissal by pulling a goal back through Markus Halsti, but Häcken were able to hold on and pick up all three points, allowing them to finish Round 7 in fourth place, sandwiched between Djurgården and Elfsborg, who were both held to draws this weekend.

Djurgården, who lie one point behind Häcken in fifth place, had to come from behind against Åtvidaberg, whose Brazilian striker Ricardo Santos scored the game’s opening goal after just six minutes, to draw 1-1, whilst Elfsborg managed to draw 0-0 away to IFK Göteborg, despite going down to 10 men with over half-an-hour left to play when youngster Marcus Rohdén was shown a red card for the second time in his career.

Elfsborg’s draw allowed Kalmar, now the only unbeaten side in Allsvenskan, to move up to second place, after they won for the second time in as many weeks. They beat Örebro 2-0 on Sunday, with their goals being scored by Måns Söderqvist and Mats Solheim. The defeat, Örebro’s second of the season, sends them down to eighth place, equal on points with seventh-place AIK, who narrowly won 2-1 at home to Helsingborg in a thrilling game on Monday evening. Despite Helsingborg being reduced to 10 men just 20 minutes into the match when Carl Johansson received a straight red card, the two sides were tied at 1-1 going into the last five minutes, with Celso Borges opening the scoring for the hosts just before half time and David Accam equalising for Helsingborg with 20 minutes left to play. However, AIK finally made the numerical advantage pay, and they grabbed a late winner on the 87th minute through Henok Goitom.

Helsingborg have had a poor start to 2014, losing four of their opening seven games of the season, and their latest defeat means that they finish Round 7 in 11th place, just two points clear of Mjällby in the relegation play-off spot in fourteenth place. The latter side were victorious for the first time this season on Saturday afternoon, scoring late on through Marcus Ekenberg to win 2-1 at home to bottom-of-the-table Halmstad, whilst Brommapojkarna, who sit equal on points with them in 13th place, also picked up their first league win of 2014 this weekend. Their victory came at home to 10th-place Norrköping, with goals from Jesper Karlström, Niklas Bärkroth and Dardan Rexhepi helping them to a comfortable 3-0 win.

Falkenberg would have dropped to the bottom of the table if it was not for their draw at home to Gefle on Monday, but Carl-Oscar Anderson’s first goal of the season midway through the second half salvaged a point for Henrik Larsson’s side and helped them avoid losing for the fifth consecutive league game. Instead, they lie in 15th place, equal on points with Halmstad and just one point behind both Mjällby and Brommapojkarna.

Tippeligaen – Rounds 6 and 7

After avoiding defeat in their opening five games of the season, Strømsgodset were beaten for the first time in the league in 2014 on Thursday evening, surrendering their spot at the top of the Tippeligaen table in the process. They were comfortably beaten by a determined and impressive Vålerenga side, who, spurred on by their disappointing loss by the same scoreline away to Sarpsborg 08 last weekend, won 3-0 against the reigning champions, thanks to a brace from Icelandic youngster Vidar Örn Kjartansson and a third goal of the season for Swedish defender Rasmus Lindkvist.

Strømsgodset bounced back by beating Bodø/Glimt 2-0 at home on Sunday afternoon, but their midweek defeat had handed Molde the opportunity to move to the top of the table if they were able to win their fourth game in a row, and they were able to do exactly that. They won 2-0 at home to 10th-place Start, thanks to a fourth goal in the last three weeks from Fredrik Gulbrandsen, and a second goal since the start of the new season for Daniel Chima Chukwu.

Molde are in inspired form at the moment, and they went on to extend their winning streak to five games on Sunday in a huge game against Rosenborg. Fredrik Gulbrandsen put them ahead at Lerkendal Stadion after half-an-hour and extended his fantastic goal-scoring tally in the process, before defender Per Egil Flo wrapped up the win with his first goal for the club just three minutes before full time. The win keeps the 2011 and 2012 league winners two points ahead of Strømsgodset in first place, but the reigning champions have the opportunity to leapfrog Tor Ole Skullerud’s impressive team when the two sides meet at Aker Stadion next Sunday in what is an incredibly important game for both clubs, despite it coming so early in the season.

Rosenborg have had a somewhat lacklustre start to 2014, particularly when one takes into account just how strong their side is, but Sunday’s defeat at home to Molde was only their first of the season. They had won – albeit, not entirely convincingly – 2-1 away to a struggling Sogndal side during the week, but the defeat at the weekend sends them down to fifth place, sandwiched between Vålerenga – who went on to record another impressive 3-0 victory in their second game of the week, this time against Stabæk – and Lillestrøm, and already six points behind the league leaders.

After failing to win in four of their opening five games of the season, Lillestrøm have embarked on a good run of results recently that have sent them up to sixth place in the table. This week saw them win twice, with their opening victory on Thursday evening coming away to Bodø/Glimt, thanks to a late goal from Moryké Fofana, whilst their second on Sunday was a far more comfortable 2-0 win at home to Sogndal, leaving the latter side bottom of the table with just four points from their opening seven league games.

Things remain incredibly close at the foot of the table, however, and a win next week against Start could see Sogndal climb as high as 11th place, but, for now, they prop up the foot of the table, after Aalesund finally won their first game of the season. Many had tipped last season’s fourth place finishers to challenge for the title, or at least a Europa League spot, but they have struggled so far, managing to secure only three points from their first six games of the season before this weekend. However, Sunday saw them finally pick up three points and, arguably, kick start their season, bouncing back from a 2-1 defeat at home to Viking during the week to beat Haugesund, who have also had a terrible start to the year, by the same scoreline away from home, thanks to goals in either half from newly-recruited Finnish midfielder Sakari Mattila and 19-year-old Torbjørn Grytten, the latter of whom also hit the back of the net against Viking to score his first goal for the club.

Aalesund now lie in 11th place with six points, one in front of Bodø/Glimt, Haugesund, Brann and Sandnes Ulf. Haugesund had picked up their first league victory of the season on Thursday against a poor Brann side, coming from behind to beat them 3-1, thanks to a hat-trick from Danish striker Christian Gytkjær, but the defeat against Aalesund keeps them firmly amongst the other strugglers for another week.

Sandnes Ulf also won for the first time during the week, winning 2-1 at home to Stabæk on Wednesday evening, but Sunday’s 2-1 defeat against Sarpsborg 08, who were reduced to 10 men with 25 minutes left to play but still went on to score a winning goal eight minutes later through Aaron Samuel Olanare, means that they end Round 7 in the relegation zone in 15th place.

The win moves Sarpsborg 08 up to seventh place in the table, continuing their fine start to the season. They are now equal on points with both Lillestrøm and Odd, the latter of whom beat them 2-0 on Thursday, thanks to goals at either end of the game from Jone Samuelsen and veteran striker Frode Johnsen, who shows no signs of slowing down, despite being 40 years of age. They went on to record a well-fought 1-1 draw at home to third-place Viking on the weekend, opening the scoring through Elbasan Rashani on the 77th minute, only for 20-year-old Icelandic defender Sverrir Ingi Ingason to steal a point with three minutes left to play.

As for Brann, their awful start to life under new boss Rikard Norling – who came to Bergen immediately after winning the Allsvenskan title with Malmö FF – is baffling. Two defeats and a draw from their opening three games of the season led to them finally winning their first game of the year against Lillestrøm in mid-April, but a run of three games without another victory has left them at the wrong end of the table, and the fans are not happy with what they are seeing on the pitch. They had to fight from a goal down to salvage a draw away to Start on Sunday, and it was only thanks to an 80th-minute Markus Berger own-goal that they were able to leave Sør Arena with anything at all. Their game against Aalesund next weekend will be a real test of what they can achieve, and a defeat there will only intensify the speculation over Norling’s suitability for the job.

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