Tippeligaen Weekly Round Up – 07/05/12

by Ben Cullimore

It’s been a rough start to the season for Stabæk, to say the least. Since being promoted back into the Tippeligaen after a single season in the division below, the side failed to finish outside of the top five between 2006 and 2009, the 2008 season seeing them crowned Norwegian Premier League champions after a fantastic second place finish the season before.

However, the 2010 season saw a change in fortune for the Bærum based club, the side only managing a poor twelfth place finish after finishing third in 2009. Things didn’t improve last season either, an identical league record of eleven wins, six draws and thirteen losses leaving them in tenth place once November came around. And, well, what can you say about Stabæk’s start to the 2012 season? It’s a disaster, in every sense of the word. After a goalless draw against Aalesund in the opening round of the season, they have lost their last five league games in a row, managing to hit the back of the net only twice during that time. And when they travelled to the Nye Lerkendal Stadion to take on Rosenborg on Friday night, an away win did not look at all likely. Stabæk had tasted victory for the first time since the pre-season friendlies when they unsurprisingly beat 3. Divisjon side Lommedalen 3-0 in the NM Cupen on Tuesday night, but it was not enough to spur them on to pull off an upset against Rosenborg, the home side taking all three points thanks to a 3-1 win. Goalless up until the seventieth minute, Rosenborg then proceeded to find the back of the net three times in ten minutes, eighteen-year-old Fredrik Midtsjø impressing with a fantastic first touch in front of goal before firing in past Jan Larsen for the opener. Bořek Dočkal then found his low strike from outside the box unable to be dealt with by Larsen just five minutes later to make it 2-0 before Jonas Svensson scored Rosenborg’s third five minutes after that, his one-touch shot from the edge of the penalty area crashing off the underside of the bar and over the line. With four minutes left to play, Franck Boli scored his second goal of the season to get a goal back for Stabæk but it was too late, the blowing of the final whistle signaling yet another defeat for the 2008 league winners and cup finalists. After cup action against 2. Divisjon side Fana on Wednesday evening, Stabæk host reigning league champions Molde at home next Saturday, a game which could well see Stabæk equaling last season’s longest losing run of seven games set by Sarpsborg 08.

Saturday’s lone game saw Odd Grenland pull off an impressive comeback to win a valuable point against Tromsø, the two sides drawing 2-2 after important goals at either ends of the match. It only took eleven minutes for Tromsø to go ahead, Kara Mbodji pulling off a spectacular run into the box meet Thomas Drage’s perfectly placed corner and head it into the back of the net. The away side then doubled their lead just one minute later, Hans Norbye given far too much room by the Odd Grenland defence on the edge of the penalty area, allowing him to fire in past André Hansen and inch-perfectly into the bottom left hand corner. Despite their quick-fire start, Odd Grenland managed to hold the Tromsø attack back and went into the half time break 2-0 down, the home side then embarking on attacks of their own after the restart, Frode Johnsen getting his second goal in two games when he managed to volley in from close range after a mix-up between Tromsø goalkeeper Marcus Sahlmann and his defence allowed the ball to fall to Johnsen’s feet mere millimeters off the line. Simen Brenne then secured the point for Odd Grenland with just two minutes left to play after a long throw-in into the box was met by Niklas Gunnarsson’s head, the ball spinning backwards to Brenne who was waiting in front of goal to fire away with ease past a helpless Sahlmann. After a nervy start to the season, Odd Grenland will be pleased with the point picked up against a Tromsø side that really should have taken advantage of their early lead and wrapped up all three points by the time the whistle had blown for half time.

Five games were played on Sunday, arguably the most important being the afternoon kick off between Strømgodset and Sogndal, the two sides lying in first and second, respectively, after Round Six. After Rosenborg’s win against Stabæk on Friday night, Strømgodset knew that they needed a win to remain at the top of the table, whilst Sogndal were looking to keep their unbeaten league run going for as long as possible. They were subject to a shock 3-0 defeat to 3. Divisjon side Florø in the cup during the week, and, unfortunately, things weren’t about to improve, goals from Alfred Sankoh, Alexander Aas and Adama Diomandé sending Strømgodset back to the top of the table with a comfortable 3-0 win. It took almost the entire first half for Strømgodset to get their first, Alfred Sankoh tapping in at the far post to convert an Alexander Aas shot, the Sierra Leonean making up for when his shot from outside of the box crashed off the post earlier on in the half. Aas then got a goal of his own fifteen minutes after the restart, volleying in after a cluster of Sogndal defenders blocked his headed effort from a corner. Diomandé then wrapped up the win with a bullet header nine minutes from time, a beautifully weighted cross from Razak Nuhu perfectly finding Diomandé’s head, the young Norwegian sending his side to the top of the table in style.

Sogndal weren’t the only side to lose their hard-earned unbeaten status on Sunday, as the battle of the newly promoted sides ended in Sandnes Ulf’s favour, Hønefoss veteran defender and captain Frode Lafton’s own goal proving to be the crucial, deciding goal that saw his side lose for the first time this season. The unfortunate event came only two minutes before half time, Sandnes Ulf and ex-Hønefoss striker Kamal Saaliti’s cross from the left hand side of the box deflecting off the right foot of Lafton, off the far post and beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Steve Clark. Despite Riku Riski hitting the bar for Hønefoss in the second half, the home side dominated for the most part, lead predominately by Tommy Høiland, he and Saaliti with several good opportunities to further their lead. But, in the end, the one own goal was enough, the three points claimed by Sandnes Ulf taking them above Hønefoss to eighth place, just one point ahead.

It was a third win in a row for Vålerenga when they hosted Fredrikstad at the Ullevaal Stadion, a remarkable three goals in the first thirteen minutes and fantastic second half defending helping them to a 3-2 win. Marcus Pedersen, on loan to Vålerenga from Dutch side Vitesse put the home side ahead after only four minutes when he took advantage of Jon Knudsen’s inability to deal with a Mohammed Fellah cross, firing in from close range with ease. The striker then made it 2-0 almost immediately after the restart, Fellah and Pedersen connecting again, the former with another cross from the left that the latter turned in at the near post. And it only took eight minutes for Vålerenga to score again, Morten Berre the scorer this time, the thirty-six-year-old with a fantastic run through the middle of the disjointed Fredrikstad defence to pick up and calmly place the ball into the back of the net at the far post from a bouncing Martin Pusic cross, again from the left hand side. Despite going so far behind so early, Fredrikstad weren’t afraid to fight back, and a multitude of chances finally paid off when Tarik Elyounoussi got their first goal of the game four minutes into the second half after a defensive mix-up allowed Etzaz Hussain to thread the ball through to Elyounoussi to place past Lars Hirschfield. Elyounoussi then got Fredrikstad’s second twelve minutes later, poor defensive work and a dangerously high defensive line allowing Swedish defender Andreas Landgren to send a lofted ball over the top of the Vålerenga defence for Elyounoussi to run onto before converting well. Despite their new found firepower, Fredrikstad just couldn’t seem to make it count, Vålerenga just about holding on, goalkeeper Hirschfield especially pulling off several important saves to hold off the white and red onslaught. Temperatures rose as the final whistle approached and with mere minutes left to play, Fredrikstad youngster Etzaz Hussain saw red after he received his second yellow card of the match for dissent, his dismissal a real shame after several strong performances so far this season.

Lillestrøm managed to pull themselves out of the relegation zone (for that day, at least) but their poor start to the season continues, their winless streak now up to seven games, after they only managed a 1-1 draw away to Haugesund. Young Icelandic striker Björn Sigurðarson put them ahead ten minutes before the break, heading into the bottom right hand corner of the goal from a Petter Vaagan Moen free kick. Lillestrøm went into the break 1-0 up but Haugesund always looked likely to score, and Maic Sema, signed from Hammarby before the start of the season, did just that after fifty seven minutes, slicing the ball into the bottom of the net after Lillestrøm goalkeeper Stefán Magnússon failed to fully hold on to a long ball forward, crashing into his defender Fredrik Stoor in the process. After the equaliser, Haugesund dominated the remaining thirty minutes of play, Nikola Đurđić in particular with several great chances to win all three points for the same side but unable to convert any of them, the Serbian striker admitting after the game that he wasn’t focused enough in front of goal. However, Haugesund shouldn’t be too disappointed with the draw as it sets a new club record, being the first time in the club’s history that they have played six games in a row in the Premier League without losing. For Lillestrøm however, things aren’t as good, the draw now making it an incredible eighteen consecutive matches in the Premier League without a win for the boys in yellow and black. The side host Brann next Saturday and will be desperate for a first win of the season to push them away from the relegation zone and further up the table in the hope that they can improve on the deeply disappointing thirteenth place finish that they achieved last season.

Sunday’s evening kick off saw Molde host Aalesund, the reigning champions lying in eighth place after Round Six, just two places and two points ahead of Aalesund. After their incredibly impressive 2011 season, the start of the new season has been relatively lackluster for Molde, losing three of their first six league games to Haugesund, Viking and Sogndal and finding themselves four points behind league leaders Strømgodset going into Round Seven. Despite their inefficiency in front of goal, Aalesund, on the other hand, have had a somewhat positive start to the season, only losing once against Hønefoss and pulling off impressive defensive performances to secure draws against Rosenborg and Tromsø. However, the side have only won once this season, 2-1 against Odd Grenland almost a month ago, goals seemingly a worrying problem. Things didn’t get off to a good start for them against Molde either, Mattias Moström putting Molde ahead after twenty four minutes with a spectacular chip from the right hand edge of the box, the ball spinning over a helpless Sten Grytebust before inch-perfectly dipping in underneath the bar and burying itself in the left hand corner of the net. Aalesund managed to hit back and equalise seven minutes before the break though, another Swede, this time Daniel Arnefjord, with a powerful header from the centre of the six-yard box from a swerving Michael Barrantes cross from the right. After going into the half time break even, Molde were awarded a penalty just before the hour mark, a decision that proved crucial as it secured all three points for the home side; defender Jonatan Tollås Nation went to claim the ball on the edge of the Aalesund penalty area but struck Davy Angan’s leg instead, sending him tumbling down onto the floor. Magne Hoseth stood up and sent Grytebust the wrong way, firing the ball into the bottom right hand corner to put Molde 2-1 up. Molde came close to extending their lead to 3-1 when Magnus Wolff Eikrem’s long range free kick next to the left touchline dipped lower than Grytebust was expecting, the young goalkeeper just managing to tip the ball over the bar. Tempers then flared on both sides as the final whistle approached, both Molde’s Joshua Gatt and Aalesund’s Daniel Arnefjord picking up last minute yellow cards when the two clashed, as well as Aalesund manager Kjetil Rekdal being sent to the stands by referee Svein-Erik Edvartsen for his protests, bringing a disappointing end to a disappointing day for his side.

The last game of Round Seven was played on Monday evening and saw a Brann side desperate for points host a Viking side that lay in twelfth place at the end of Round Six. After dropping into the relegation zone after Lillestrøm’s 1-1 draw against Haugesund on the Sunday, Brann were looking for a win to help kick start a much needed turn around, but it wasn’t to be as neither side managed to find the back of the net, but not for lack of trying; both Valon Berisha and Indriði Sigurðsson came close for Viking in the first half, whilst Brann’s Chukwuma Akabueze saw his deflected shot fly just wide of the post. After a strong start to the second half, Viking were presented with their finest chance to score when they were awarded a penalty after the referee had judged that Brann defender Erik Mjelde had handled the ball in the area. Andrè Danielsen stepped up to put the away side ahead but skied the ball over the bar. He looked down at the penalty spot afterwards, clearly not happy with the condition of the penalty spot, a viewpoint that he made a point of sharing after the final whistle had blown. Under the circumstances, the point gained against Viking will be a welcome one, but as each week passes Brann become more aware of their desperate need for points if they are going to get anywhere near the fourth place finish that they managed last season.

At the end of Round Seven, Strømgodset stay top of the table with sixteen points after their fourth win in a row with the last remaining unbeaten side Rosenborg lying one point behind them in second place. Vålerenga are in third with thirteen points, just one point ahead of Haugesund, Sogndal, Tromsø and Molde who make up the fourth to seventh placed sides. A fantastic three wins in a row has sent newly promoted Sandnes Ulf up to eighth with eleven points, one place and one point ahead of fellow promoted side Hønefoss. Odd Grenland and Viking are in tenth and eleventh, respectively, both with ten points, whilst Aalesund lie behind them in twelfth. Two defeats in a row means that Fredrikstad stay in thirteenth place with five points, both Brann and Lillestrøm one point behind them, the two sides seperated only by Brann’s superior amount of goals scored. Lillestrøm and Stabæk are the only sides remaining that still haven’t managed a win so far this season, and Stabæk’s sixth league defeat in a row means that they stay bottom of the table with just one point.

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