Scandinavian weekly round up

by Ben Cullimore

Scandinavia

Danish Superliga – Round 33

With most of the key spots already wrapped up, and with both this year’s champions and two relegated sides seemingly confirmed, pride was all that most of the 12 Danish Superliga sides had to play for going into Sunday’s final round of games. However, drama struck during the week, as it emerged that both Viborg and Esbjerg had fielded ineligible players (David Boysen and Ryan Laursen, respectively) in games against Randers and AGF. As a result, Randers and AGF were awarded 3-0 wins in the respective games, meaning that AGF, whose relegation to the 1st Division was confirmed with their loss against Vestsjælland in Round 31, were, technically, still able to escape relegation on the last day of the season, albeit needing to thrash Aalborg whilst praying that SønderjyskE were beaten equally as heavily by Midtjylland. As expected, AGF were unable to produce a miracle of epic proportions, instead losing 1-0 to this year’s champions, with the only goal of the game being scored by young midfielder Kasper Pedersen with just seven minutes left to play.

SønderjyskE, meanwhile, pulled off a huge upset against Midtjylland, coming from a goal down to win 3-1. The victory means that they finish the season in 10th place – equal on points with ninth-place Vestsjælland, who drew 1-1 with seventh-place Randers in their final game – which is a great achievement considering how much time they spent struggling in the relegation zone. With only one defeat in their final six league games – and with four of those ending in victories – they more than deserve their spot in next year’s Superliga.

SønderjyskE’s win produced joy not only in their native Haderslev, but also 150 miles away in the capital, as the defeat for Midtjylland meant that København’s 3-2 victory at home to Odense was enough to guarantee them a Champions League qualifying spot. After an own-goal from goalkeeper Johan Wiland saw them go a goal behind after just 14 minutes, København fought back and were ahead with half-an-hour left to play, thanks to goals from Igor Vetokele and Andreas Cornelius. However, with little over 10 minutes to go, Odense equalised through Martin Spelmann, and it looked as if the reigning champions would have to settle for third place, and a spot in next season’s Europa League. But, eight minutes later, midfielder Thomas Kristensen, who before this weekend had only scored two goals this season, fired the ball into the back of the net to steal a last-minute win and confirm København’s place in the Champions League for the sixth season in a row.

Midtjylland’s devastation was aptly summed up by their manager Glen Riddersholm, who sat alone, propped up against one of Sydbank Park’s goalposts, for an hour after the final whistle had gone. Despite the third place finish being their joint second best in their history, the club will be bitterly disappointed with their end to the season, as seven defeats in their last twelve league games not only lost them their first ever title, but also meant that they would miss out on appearing in the Champions League for the first time as well.

Joining them in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League next season will be Brøndby, who ended their season with a draw away to Nordsjælland, who were hoping to give departing manager Kasper Hjulmand a fitting farewell with a fourteenth victory of the season. However, it was not to be, as, despite finding themselves 2-0 up after only 20 minutes, last season’s runners-up had to settle for a 2-2 draw, and a sixth place finish after a disappointing campaign.

Two points in front of them in fifth place finish Esbjerg, who were so close to embarking on a fantastic comeback in the second half of the season that would have seen them transformed from possible relegation candidates to top four finishers, but they ran out of steam at the last minute. They were only able to draw 0-0 with Viborg, who, as a result of the action taken against them during the week, finish the season at the bottom of the table, four points behind AGF.

Allsvenskan – Round 10

Despite only being a third of the way through the Allsvenskan season, Malmö FF already find themselves five points clear at the top of the table after they were victorious yet again this week. The reigning champions’ latest win came away to fifteenth-place Mjällby, who they beat 1-0, thanks to a 39th-minute Guillermo Molins goal, his seventh of the season and his third in as many games. His side were helped also by AIK, who beat Elfsborg 2-1 to inflict a second defeat of the season on the second-place side. The two sides looked set to share the points as the 90-minute mark approached at Friends Arena in Solna last Thursday, but English veteran Kenny Pavey scored a late winner – his first for AIK since May 2011 – to help his side pick up their second consecutive victory, one that sends them up to fifth place in the table.

AIK are now just one point behind fourth-place Kalmar, who were finally beaten this week. After managing to last nine games without losing, they were, quick frankly, thrashed by Häcken, who responded to Jonathan Ring’s 10th-minute equaliser by scoring three times without reply in a 4-1 win at home in Göteborg. They are now in third place, equal on points with Kalmar but with a superior goal difference, and just one point behind Elfsborg.

Häcken’s local rivals IFK Göteborg extended their unbeaten run to eight games, but they were only able to pick up a point away to Djurgården after their clash in Stockholm ended goalless. IFK Göteborg end Round 10 in sixth place, one point behind AIK and three in front of Djurgården, who have now failed to win in their last four league games.

In the bottom half of the table, Falkenberg’s impressive run continued for another week, as a comfortable and impressive 3-0 victory for Henrik Larsson’s side away to struggling Norrköping means that they are now unbeaten in their last four games, with the last two consecutive clashes ending in victories for the newly promoted side. They are also now equal on points with Helsingborg, whose disappointing and lacklustre start to the season goes on. They could only draw 0-0 with ninth-place Åtvidaberg on Wednesday evening, meaning that they end Round 10 in tenth place with only 11 points and three victories so far this year.

Halmstad won for only the second time this season to move off the foot of the table and up to 14th place, sending Brommapojkarna down in their place. They beat the Stockholm-based side 3-0 at home to pick up a hugely important three points, whilst also extending their visitors’ losing streak to four games. Halmstad’s win also means that Mjällby, who had won 1-0 against Brommapojkarna the previous week before going on to lose against Halmstad, drop into the relegation zone, albeit equal on points with the 2000 Allsvenskan champions.

Equal on points with Halmstad and Mjällby in 12th place are Gefle, who have only won once this season, and have failed to do so in their last six league games. They were almost victorious for a second time this year in their game against Örebro on Monday evening when Johan Oremo successfully converted an 86th-minute penalty, but they were unable to hold on to the lead and allowed Nordin Gerzić to score a 92nd-minute equaliser, much to the frustration of manager Roger Sandberg, who has seen his side lose one-goal leads six times in their last six league games.

Tippeligaen – Rounds 9 and 10

The May 16th round, the group of games played the day before Norway’s Constitution Day, is always special, often, if not always, producing upsets and excitement, and this year was no different.

The biggest upset of the day was arguably Stabæk’s 3-1 win against Rosenborg in front of over 20,000 fans in Trondheim. Bob Bradley’s side went ahead first after 26 minutes through Fredrik Brustad, and they were able to hold on to take the lead into the half-time break. Captain Tore Reginiussen equalised for the hosts seven minutes after the restart to relieve some of the pressure, but Stabæk hit back hard, scoring twice in six minutes, with Luc Kassi scoring the first and fellow Ivorian Franck Boli netting the second to wrap up a win that will go down in history as one of the finest May 16th results.

Stabæk then went on to complete a truly incredible week with a 2-1 win at home to Strømsgodset, sending them up to third place in the table, just two points behind the reigning champions with one-third of the season already completed. Many predicted that Stabæk would be relegated back to the second-tier at the end of the year, and despite there still being twenty games left to play, it looks extremely unlikely that Bradley and his band of brothers will be in any sort of trouble come November.

Stabæk’s wins mean that Strømsgodset, who had thrashed Sarpsborg 08 4-1 the previous week to remain hot on the heels of Molde, lie five points behind the league leaders, who picked up two victories this week. They won 2-1 away to Lillestrøm first before going on to beat Viking 1-0, thanks to a last-minute winning goal scored by Mohamed Elyounoussi, bringing the latter side’s impressive unbeaten start to the season to an end. Molde, who are enjoying a great start to life under new manager Tor Ole Skullerud, have only lost once so far this season and are now unbeaten in their last eight league games, with seven of those ending in victories.

Despite Viking impressively holding out until Round 10 to be beaten for the first time in the league in 2014, they have now failed to win in their last four games, with their clash against local rivals Sandnes Ulf before the defeat to Molde ending in a 2-2 draw after they unexpectedly went 2-0 down to the struggling side. Viking are now one point behind Stabæk and equal on points with Odd, who scored a last-minute goal to beat Haugesund 2-1 last Friday before being helped to a 2-1 win against struggling Aalesund by a first-half Jone Samuelsen brace on Tuesday evening.

The victory moves Odd above Lillestrøm, Rosenborg and Vålerenga, who were all only able to draw in their games on Monday evening. Vålerenga, who were only just able to draw 2-2 against Start in their previous game, had to settle for another 2-2 draw against Lillestrøm in Oslo when young Ivorian striker Moryké Fofana scored an equaliser in the 85th minute, whilst Rosenborg were held to a 1-1 draw by Sarpsborg 08, who finish Round 10 in 10th place, two points behind in-form Bodø/Glimt, who won 2-1 against Brann before going on to beat 12th-place Start by the same scoreline to extend their winning streak to three games, and just one in front of Sogndal, who are also unbeaten in their last three games, after they drew 2-2 with Aalesund before beating Brann 2-1 at home to send them four points clear of the relegation zone.

Brann’s awful start to the season continues, and their latest defeat means that they now lie in 13th place, just one point ahead of both Aalesund and Sandnes Ulf, after the latter side, who sit in the relegation zone, were involved in a goalless draw with bottom-of-the-table Haugesund.

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