Scandinavian Weekly Round up

by Ben Cullimore
Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 00.16.22Danish Superliga – Round 2

After having to settle for a goalless draw against a determined Silkeborg side in their opening game of the season, reigning Danish Superliga champions Aalborg picked up their first win of the new campaign this weekend when they hosted Midtjylland, one of their main rivals for the title last season, at home on Saturday afternoon. After a goalless first half, Aalborg finally broke the deadlock with their first goal of the season in the 63rd minute when Anders Jacobsen volleyed in a Jakob Ahlmann cross at the near post, before Nicklas Helenius, back on loan at the club after a disappointing season with Aston Villa, then wrapped up the win from the penalty spot three minutes later after Midtjylland defender Francis Dickoh was adjudged to have brought down Jacobsen in the penalty area.

Aalborg are one of only four sides to have avoided defeat in their opening two games of the season, and they currently lie in second place with four points, tied with København who won 2-1 at home to Nordsjælland thanks to a 44th-minute header scored by Mathias Jørgensen – who returned to the club earlier this month after a spell abroad with PSV Eindhoven – and a 16th-minute long-range strike from Nicolai Jørgensen.

Randers, who lead the way at the top of the table, are the only side to have won both of their games, and after narrowly winning 1-0 against Esbjerg last weekend they came from a goal down to win 2-1 at home to Hobro on Sunday, with Baye Djiby Fall and Kasper Fisker (the latter of whom spent four years at Hobro, making over 150 appearances for the club) scoring a goal each in either half to cancel out Martin Thomsen’s incredible seventh-minute strike from almost 40 yards out.

At the other end of the table, Odense are the only side without a single point yet, as this weekend saw them lose 3-1 away to Vestsjælland, with the latter side finding themselves 3-0 ahead with only five minutes of the second half played after they met little resistance from their visitors. It only took the hosts nine minutes to go ahead, with Rasmus Festersen sliding in to toe poke the ball past the outstretched figure of Odense goalkeeper Mads Toppel at the near post, and they were 2-0 ahead just 14 minutes later when Icelandic defender Ari Freyr Skúlason accidentally put the ball into the back of his own net with a mistimed clearance from the edge of the penalty area that squeezed between Toppel and the post. Vestsjælland could have gone 3-0 up before half-time if it was not for a string of heroic saves from Toppel, but they finally did so shortly after the restart when Marc Rochester Sørensen volleyed the ball in to the back of the net from just outside the box after a poor defensive clearance that landed at his feet perfectly. Emil Larsen pulled a goal back for Odense with little over 25 minutes left to play but by that point Vestsjælland were in complete control, and they were able to hold on safely to all three points until the referee finally brought an end to Odense’s misery. The latter side now face even tougher clashes against Aalborg, Brøndby, Randers, København and Midtjylland in their next five games, so things look as if they could get worse before they get better for Troels Bech’s struggling side.

Sitting just in front of Odense are Esbjerg and Silkeborg, who both have one point from their opening two games. Silkeborg, who were so impressive in their goalless draw away to København last weekend, were beaten 2-0 by the latter side’s local rivals Brøndby in Monday evening’s game, with José Ariel Núñez opening the scoring in the 48th minute with a 20-yard strike after being left completely unmarked on the edge of the area by the sleeping Silkeborg defence, before 19-year-old South African midfielder Lebogang Phiri doubled Brøndby’s lead and wrapped up their first win of the season with one of the last shots of the game.

As for Esbjerg, they bounced back from last weekend’s disappointing 1-0 defeat against Randers by drawing 1-1 with SønderjyskE, although they would have felt that they should have finished the clash with all three points after conceding an equaliser with only five minutes left to play. To make matters worse, it was an own-goal that gifted SønderjyskE a point, with Emil Lyng accidentally heading the ball into the back of his own net to cancel out Martin Pušić’s 60th-minute opener.

Allsvenskan – Round 16

Malmö FF, who have led the way for most of the season, remain unchallenged and in complete control at the top of Allsvenskan for another week, after this round saw them win their 11th game of the campaign. Last week, they were forced to share a point with Kalmar, who themselves are desperate for points as a string of poor results has seen them drop away from the Europa League qualification places, but this time round the league leaders were able to leave with all three points intact, thanks to a 3-1 win in front of over 13,500 fans at Swedbank Stadion. Malmö FF fell behind early on, however, when Sebastian Andersson put them ahead with his second goal of the season, and the scoreline remained at 1-0 to the visitors until two minutes into the second half when Emil Forsberg fired in from close range, and they were ahead six minutes later after an unfortunate own-goal from teenager Sebastian Ramhorn, who accidentally turned the ball into the back of the Kalmar net with his head after Markus Rosenberg’s headed effort had been parried away by goalkeeper Lars Cramer. Rosenberg then got a goal of his own 10 minutes later, beating Markus Thorbjörnsson on the edge of the penalty area before slotting the ball past Cramer to complete the win.

The victory keeps Malmö FF six points clear of AIK, who were able to bounce back from last week’s disappointing, and surprising, 4-1 defeat to Falkenberg by comfortably beating the newly promoted side 3-0 on Monday evening, with Martin Lorentzson, Nils Eric Johansson and Ibrahim Moro all managing to get their names on the scoresheet. They remain just one point ahead of in-form Häcken, however, after the latter side were able to extend their winning streak to three games with a good 2-1 win at home to seventh-place Djurgården thanks to two goals in the opening 18 minutes from René Makondele, the Congolese forward – and former Djurgården player – who has been such an important component in the Häcken side since his move from Helsingborg in 2010.

As for his former side, their season remains as disappointing as ever, with this week seeing them draw for a third consecutive game when they met fellow strugglers Örebro at home on Sunday. The clash ended 1-1, with Mikael Dahlberg scoring for the hosts just before half-time and Daniel Gustavsson for the visitors shortly before the hour mark, and it means that the two sides remain just one point apart, with Helsingborg in 11th place and Örebro in 12th. The game was also memorable as it saw 17-year-old Jordan Larsson, son of Henrik, make an appearance when he came on as a substitute with 17 minutes left to play. The youngster recently moved to Allsvenskan from fourth-tier club Högaborg (just as his father did 22 years ago) and he received a standing ovation from all corners of Olympia when he entered the pitch to replace Mattias Lindström, a player who, in stark contrast to the fresh-faced teenager, is double his age and has made over 200 appearances for Di Röe.

Both Helsingborg and Örebro are also now perilously close to dropping into the relegation zone after both Mjällby and Halmstad were able to pick up hugely important wins this weekend to move ever closer to escaping from the drop zone. Mjällby’s was arguably the best victory of the weekend, as they unexpectedly won 3-0 at home to seventh-place IFK Göteborg, thanks to second-half goals from Robin Strömberg and Andreas Blomqvist, and an early own-goal scored by goalkeeper Markus Sandberg, who accidentally punched the ball into the back of his own net when trying to clear a corner kick. As for Halmstad, they survived a late scare to win 3-2 at home to Gefle, with three goals being scored in the final four minutes after Halmstad defender Joseph Baffo was shown a straight red card in the 87th minute for bringing Johan Oremo down in front of goal. Halmstad were 2-0 ahead at that point but Gefle were able to reduce the lead to just one goal when Simon Lundevall successfully converted the resulting penalty kick, but Halmstad’s two-goal advantage would soon return as Kristoffer Fagercrantz burst away at the other end of the pitch before firing the ball past goalkeeper Emil Hedvall to make it 3-1. Gefle were not finished, however, and Icelandic defender Skúli Jón Friðgeirsson got in on the action by scoring his side’s second goal just a minute later, but there was not enough time left for Gefle to score a third and they were forced to leave Örjans Vall empty-handed.

The two victories mean that Halmstad now sit on 14 points in 15th place, whilst Mjällby sit just one point ahead in the relegation play-off spot in 14th, one point behind both Örebro and Gefle, with Brommapojkarna, who have still only won once so far this season, languishing at the bottom of the table with just eight points after this weekend’s 2-2 draw at home to eighth-place Åtvidaberg, in which they lost an early 2-0 lead after Dardan Rexhepi and Gabriel Petrović saw their goals cancelled out by Daniel Hallingström and Ricardo Santos.

Meanwhile, Elfsborg comfortably won 3-0 at home to Norrköping to move above Kalmar and IFK Göteborg and into fourth place in the table, one point ahead of the former of the two sides and two behind Häcken. Their goals were scored by Marcus Rohdén, Johan Larsson and Daniel Mobaek, and they bring an end to their poor four-game winless streak whilst also keeping Norrköping nine points behind in ninth place, sandwiched between Åtvidaberg and 10th-place Falkenberg.

Tippeligaen – Round 17

There were no positional changes in the top four of the Tippeligaen table at the end of this round after all of the high-flying sides were victorious this weekend. League leaders Molde’s win was arguably the biggest of them all, as they beat Rosenborg 3-1 at home on Sunday to remain nine points clear at the top of the table. It did not take them long to go ahead, too, as Mattias Moström powered his way through the static Rosenborg defence before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Alexander Lund Hansen. They would have to wait until the 55th minute for their second goal, when Daniel Chima Chukwu was left completely unmarked in front of goal and was easily able to convert Mohamed Elyounoussi’s pass-cum-shot, but the Nigerian’s goal gave them the confidence to quickly grab another, and just eight minutes later they found themselves 3-0 ahead thanks to Harmeet Singh’s first goal for the club since his move from Feyenoord in February. Morten Gamst Pedersen scored a swerving free kick in the 75th minute to pull a goal back for Rosenborg but it would prove to be little consolation as Molde held on to win, effectively sending Rosenborg out of the title race in the process.

The defeat sends Rosenborg down to fifth place, equal on points with Vålerenga who are now ahead of them in fourth thanks to Tuesday’s narrow win at home to struggling Stabæk. Great teamwork and an even better finish from Fredrik Brustad gave Stabæk an early lead and some hope of picking up their first league win in over two months, but it only took Vålerenga one minute to get back on level terms when talented teenager Ghayas Zahid fired in his second goal of his young career. The Oslo side were ahead 13 minutes later through a header from the league’s top goalscorer Viðar Örn Kjartansson, and it remained that way until midway through the second half when Brustad struck again to bring Stabæk back on level terms. It looked as if Bob Bradley’s men were going to leave Ullevaal Stadion with a well-fought, and much needed, point, but Zahid, clearly a superb talent that will not only play an important role for Vålerenga in the future but also for the Norwegian national side, was on hand to ruin their day for a second time, sliding in on the edge of the six-yard box to poke the ball past Sayouba Mandé and send his side to within two points of a Europa League qualification spot in the process.

Sitting in the latter of the two Europa League places in third spot are Odd, whose fantastic season continues to go from strength to strength. This weekend saw them win 3-1 away to Sogndal, with Fredrik Nordkvelle and Håvard Storbæk scoring within four minutes of one another at the end of the game to cancel out newly-signed French defender Christophe Psyché’s 75th-minute equaliser. The defeat is Sogndal’s third in their last four league games, and it leaves them equal on points with fellow out-of-form side Stabæk in 10th place, and one point ahead Bodø/Glimt, who are enduring an equally awful time down in 12th place. They have now lost their last four league games in a row after this weekend’s tight 4-3 defeat away to Sarpsborg 08, a game in which they lost one-goal leads three times and conceded two late goals to leave empty-handed.

In stark contrast to Jan Halvor Halvorsen’s struggling side, Brian Deane’s Sarpsborg 08 are in fantastic form at the moment, and this weekend’s determined and well-deserved win is their third in their last four games, setting themselves up perfectly for next week’s clash against Haugesund, who have found themselves in a good run of form recently, one that has not only moved them out of the relegation zone but also five points clear of Brann. This weekend’s victory was easily the best of the three that they have managed to pick up in their last five games, as they were able to come from a goal down to thrash Start 5-1 at home, thanks to braces for Christian Gytkjær and Maic Sema, and a second league goal of the season for Brazilian midfielder Daniel Bamberg. The victory moves Haugesund two points clear of Aalesund, who remain in the relegation play-off spot in 14th place after they held Lillestrøm to a 1-1 draw at Color Line Stadion. They almost came away with all three points, however, after being in front from the 66th minute until the 89th thanks to Sakari Mattila’s curling free kick, but Pálmi Rafn Pálmason saved his side from dropping down to eighth place in the table by tapping in Fred Friday’s headed cross at the back post with just a minute remaining.

As for Brann, they remain in the relegation zone with just 12 points from 17 games after they suffered an 11th defeat of the season this weekend. It came at home to sixth-place Viking on Sunday, who narrowly won 1-0 thanks to a fantastic long-range shot from Bjørn Daniel Sverrisson that beat Brann goalkeeper Øystein Øvretveit before bouncing off the post and into the corner of the net. There were penalty shouts from both sides throughout the game and a plethora of good chances for Brann, but no matter how hard they tried they were unable to find an equaliser, thanks predominately to a fantastic performance between the sticks from Viking’s 23-year-old goalkeeper Arild Østbø.

Just behind Brann remain Sandnes Ulf, who, despite there still being 13 games left to play this season, look as if they are going to be returning to the Norwegian 1st Division after three seasons in the top flight. They have now lost their last five league games in a row – and 11 this campaign – leaving them bottom of the table with just 10 points and two wins all year. This weekend saw them throw away a point at home to Strømsgodset, who scored twice in just two minutes at the end of the game to turn a 1-1 draw into a 3-1 win. The clash also saw 15-year-old talent Martin Ødegaard open the scoring for the Drammen-based side with his third goal in eleven appearances, as well as winning a penalty after having his shirt pulled by Avni Pepa. Hannes Þór Halldórsson ended up saving the resulting spot-kick but Gustav Wikheim and Thomas Sørum went on to score a goal each in the final moments of the match, the latter of which was set up by Ødegaard after a fantastic solo run through the heart of the Sandnes Ulf defence.

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