Tippeligaen Weekly Round Up – 02/04/12

by Ben Cullimore

After an impressive and spirited display (from both the players and the ecstatically vocal supporters) at home against Viking last Monday evening, Tippeligaen new boys Sandnes Ulf travelled to Bergen on Friday afternoon to face last year’s fourth place finishing side Brann, hoping to continue their positive start to their first ever season in the top flight of Norwegian football. But Brann themselves were searching for a good result too after their 3-1 loss to Rosenborg the previous weekend.

On paper, Friday’s fixture was one that Brann were well aware that they should be winning, but, as we all know, the Tippeligaen is not a league that can be predicted merely on paper. As it so happens, the favourites did manage to pull off a comfortable 3-1 win against the small side from Rogaland County, Rudolph Austin putting Brann ahead from the penalty spot just twelve minutes into the first half after Amin Askar was brought down in the box. Sandnes Ulf’s Kamal Saaliti equalised for the away side just eight minutes later though, leaping high and heading in twelve yards out from an Andreas Andersen cross. The score stayed even until fifteen minutes into the second half when Amin Askar’s low shot from outside the box on the left was unable to be dealt with by Bo Andersen in the Sandnes Ulf goal, the ball bouncing just in front of the Danish keeper and beating him at the near post. Kim Ojo then made it 3-1 to Brann only two minutes later, the visitor’s defence allowing a lofted ball forward to bounce over them, unleashing Ojo through to cheekily chip the ball over a helpless Andersen and into the back of the net. Despite attack after attack from a hungry Brann striking force, the home side were unable to find the back of the net again and they had to make do with the 3-1 score line, but there would be few complaints heard inside the Brann Stadion as a comfortable victory saw the side record their first points of the 2012 season.

Saturday saw Strømsgodset host Vålerenga at the Marienlyst Stadion, the home side desperately looking for points after losing 2-1 away to last year’s champions Molde on the first day of the season, whilst Vålerenga were looking to make it two wins out of two after they beat Haugesund 2-1 the Sunday before. And it was Vålerenga that started stronger, going ahead after twenty-two minutes through ex-Strømsgodset striker Marcus Pedersen’s header at the near post from a beautifully-placed cross from Harmeet Singh. Strømsgodset then made it 1-1 twelve minutes later when Øyvind Storflor coolly placed his shot on the edge of the penalty area past Lars Hirschfeld after the Vålerenga defence were unable to deal with a bouncing cross in from the left. Vålerenga replied in perfect fashion only two minutes later though, Kristofer Hæstad flicking the ball over Adam Larsen Kwarasey before poking the ball into the back of the net a few feet in front of an open goal to put the away side ahead once again. The score line stayed that way until just after the start of the second half when new signing from Hødd Adama Diomandé headed in from close range to make it 2-2 with his first ever touch for Strømgodset just moments after coming on to the pitch. The home side pushed hard throughout the second half, putting in an impressive performance that was rewarded with one of the last touches of the game, former Vålerenga player Lars Iver Strand rising high and heading in from a perfectly executed free kick from Razak Nuhu in the 92nd minute to win the game for the boys from Drammen, earning them their first league points of the 2012 season.

There were five games played on Sunday, seeing the ball hit the back of the net thirteen times, thanks mainly to a six goal thriller at the Fredrikstad Stadion where Fredrikstad pulled off an extremely impressive and well-deserved 5-1 demolishing of Stabæk. But, despite their clear dominance, it was not the home side that took the lead first, Franck Boli tapping in after only four minutes when ex-Stabæk goalkeeper Jon Knudsen suffered a terrible blunder, failing to deal with a long range effort from Christer Kleiven. Fredrikstad equalised only ten minutes later though, the always-impressive Tarik Elyounoussi picking up a low Khalifa Jabbie shot near to the penalty spot and firing in past Jan Kjell Larsen. Fredrikstad then made it 2-1 just a few minutes before half time, Etzaz Hussain twisting and turning on the edge of the six yard box before thumping the ball into the top-right corner. It only took the home side eight minutes after half time to score their third, Elyounoussi setting up Alex Valencia from the left before the 32-year-old controlled and converted in cool fashion, and Andreas Landgren then made it 4-1 twenty-three minutes later, the Swede cheekily finishing with a back heel right in front of Larsen. If Stabæk weren’t feeling down enough already, Benjamin Dahl Hagen added to their woes when he headed in to make it 5-1 with just over five minutes left to play, finishing off a fantastic day for Fredrikstad.

Reigning champions Molde suffered their first defeat of the season away to Haugesund, two Alexander Søderlund goals securing the home side’s first points of the season. His first came after just quarter of an hour, the Norwegian youngster bending down low to head in at the far post from a beautifully lofted forward ball by Vegard Skjerve. Søderlund’s second, which came nine minutes into the second half, caused controversy and was the main talking point of the game; through on goal and with only Molde goalkeeper Espen Bugge Pettersen to beat, Søderlund struck the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and onto the underside of the bar, the ball bouncing off the line and into a rather relieved-looking Pettersen’s hands. However, the linesman flagged for a goal, shocking the Molde players and fans, not to mention Søderlund himself. Replays show that the ball did not cross the line and despite creating several good chances near the end of the 90 minutes the reigning champions couldn’t find the back of the net, sending them back to the Aker Stadion empty-handed and extremely angry.

Odd Grenland became the only side still without a point this season when they lost 1-0 to Viking on Sunday evening, Andre Danielsen with the crucial goal with quarter of an hour left to play. In a game of several chances for both sides, not to mention several signs of defensive weaknesses and overall sloppiness, Danielsen won the game for the home side in spectacular fashion; picking up the ball thirty yards out, he ran towards the right-hand side of the box and fired in an incredible shot into the top left-hand corner of the goal, straight past a helpless Andre Hansen. In a game that easily could have gone either way, Viking will be thankful that Danielsen’s magic helped them to secure all three points.

Hønefoss recorded a second goalless draw of the season and remained without a single goal when they travelled to the Fosshaugane Campus to play a Sogndal side that, after round one of the new season, lay top of the table thanks to their fantastic 4-0 victory against Odd Grenland a week earlier. Despite their ability to find the net so convincingly away from home in round one, Sogndal were unable to find the same form in front of a home crowd and almost went behind after nineteen minutes when Kenneth Di Vita Jensen’s shot in front of goal ricocheted off the post, the striker then miskicking the rebound and missing the opportunity to put the league’s new boys 1-0 up. Tonny Brochmann came close for the home side though just before half time, neat play across the pitch from Malick Mane to Stephane Diarra Badji to Brochmann resulted in the Dane’s shot from the right being parried away by goalkeeper Steve Clark. Hønefoss’ Jensen continued to cause problems for the Sogndal defence throughout the second half but it was Brochmann’s wonder strike from just outside the box after sixty-three minutes that looked the most certain to hit the back of the net, the ball swerving through the air and above Clark before smashing the bar before being able to be collected safely by the American goalkeeper. Further chances pushed an erratic Sogndal defence to the verge of breaking point by the away side just couldn’t find a way through, both teams having to settle with sharing the points.

Sunday’s last game saw a thrilling contest between Lillestrøm and Rosenborg. New-look Lillestrøm failed to score in their first game of the season where they drew 0-0 with Hønefoss, but it only took them seven minutes to score this time around, Johan Andersson volleying in beautifully with great technique, control and precision from the edge of the penalty area after the Rosenborg defence failed to clear a cross in from the right, the ball falling perfectly for the Swedish signing from Stabæk to bury into the back of the net. But, it was only four minutes later that Rosenborg managed to grab an equaliser, Rosenborg legend Steffen Iversen chipping over a floored Sead Ramović after the Bosnian keeper had dived down low to halt a fast-approaching John Chibuike. The score line stayed this way until the seventy-eighth minute when newly-acquired English striker Luke Rodgers, playing his first game since moving from New York Red Bulls, headed the ball into the back of the net after Petter Vaagan Moen’s chipped shot hit the crossbar and bounced off the line, right into the path of an oncoming Rodgers who had only been on the pitch for five minutes. It looked like Lillestrøm had all three points in the bag and secured until Mikael Dorsin made it 2-2 in the ninety-fourth minute with one of the last kicks of the game, the Rosenborg captain poking the ball past Ramović after the Lillestrøm defence were unable to clear a throw-in. However, replays indicated that Dorsin was in fact in an offside position, making the winning goal even harder for Lillestrøm to stomach.

The last game of the second round of matches was an unfortunately mediocre 0-0 draw between Aalesund and Tromsø at the Color Line Stadion. Aalesund, like Hønefoss and Odd Grenland, still haven’t managed to score this season and it was the away side that almost went ahead early on but Zdenek Ondrášek’s headed effort from a Thomas Drage corner marginally missed the post and hit the side netting instead. Christian Myklebust had a great opportunity to put the home side ahead after eighteen minutes when he found himself unmarked at the back post but his shot was poor and didn’t trouble Benny Lekström in the Tromsø goal. Aalesund did eventually hit the back of the net three minutes into the second half, Demar Phillips volleying low past Sten Grytebust but the goal was rightly disallowed for offside. The nearest Tromsø came to scoring happened twenty minutes later, Kara Mbodji, amongst several others, being involved in a mass scramble in the middle of the Aalesund six yard box, no player being able to fire the ball past the mass of orange shirts on the line. Aalesund had one last real chance, Magnus Sylling Olsen shooting from long range after a miskicked clearance by Lekström but the Tromsø keeper was able to deal with the shot easily enough, ensuring that a mediocre Tromsø side headed back up north with a point that they so easily could have lost.

After Round 2, Sogndal remain top of the table on goal difference, Rosenborg, Viking and Tromsø all joining them on four points, being the only four sides to remain unbeaten so far. Meanwhile, Fredrikstad, Haugesund, Brann, Strømgodset, Vålerenga and Molde all have three points; Lillestrøm, Aalesund and Hønefoss have two points; Sandnes Ulf and Stabæk both have just one point; and Odd Grenland stay bottom of the table, the only side to be without both a single goal or a single point.

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