Tippeligaen Weekly Round Up – 16/04/12

by Ben Cullimore

After a goalless draw against Sogndal and a nervy 2-2 draw against Lillestrøm in the last two rounds, Norwegian giants Rosenborg got back to winning ways on Friday evening when they travelled to the Nye Fredrikstad Stadion to take on Fredrikstad.

The hosts, who had managed to pull off a fantastic 5-1 home win against Stabæk in the second round, had themselves only managed a draw in their last game when they travelled to new side Hønefoss, so another win was needed if they were to keep applying pressure in the top half of the table. They started the game off well, pushing hard and creating chances in a first half that they clearly dominated, and their hard work paid off when they found the back of the net after thirty-six minutes, Etzaz Hussain running with the ball from his own half before passing to Tarik Elyounoussi who tapped the ball back to Thomas Holm on the edge of the box, the former Molde midfielder firing in past Daniel Örlund in the Rosenborg goal. However, Rosenborg returned from the half time break a much-improved side, recently-returned striker Steffen Iversen leveling the scores just nine minutes after the restart with his third goal in four league games, turning smartly in front of goal and poking the ball in past Jon Knudsen after being set up by a low cross by Daniel Fredheim Holm. Danish defender Jim Larsen then got the winner for Rosenborg with ten minutes left to play after Bořek Dočkal’s corner was headed upwards by the Fredrikstad defence, only for the ball to fall directly onto Larsen’s head almost directly on the line. Rosenborg held on for the final ten minutes to remain unbeaten in the new season.

Sunday afternoon saw five games being played, unbeaten Tromsø one of those ten sides in action, hosting newly promoted Sandnes Ulf. After a strong 2-2 draw against Viking in the opening round, Sandnes Ulf had been presented with a difficult two following games against both Brann and Aalesund, managing another impressive 1-1 draw at home to Aalesund whilst unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, losing 3-1 away to Brann. They made the long trip north to Tromsø in the hope of winning their first points away from home, but it was not to be as they suffered another 3-1 defeat, three first half goals from the home side giving Sandnes Ulf too high a mountain to climb after the break. New Czech signing Zdenek Ondrášek put Tromsø ahead after only eight minutes, his low shot from the edge of the area proving too much for Sandnes Ulf goalkeeper Bo Andersen who managed to get a hand to the ball, only to watch it roll away from him and into the back of the net. The two then clashed again ten minutes later, Andersen taking down Ondrášek in front of goal to earn himself a yellow card and to gift the home side a penalty, a gift which Thomas Drage took full advantage of, placing the ball just below Andersen’s outstretched arms. Tromsø’s lead was then furthered to 3-0 on the 37th minute, Sandnes Ulf defender Vegard Aanestad unfortunately heading the ball into his own net trying to clear a perfectly placed cross from Drage. After the break, the away side pushed harder and pressurised the Tromsø defence even more, but they were only able to find the back of the net once, fifteen minutes from the end, second half substitutes Tommy Høiland and Fredrik Torsteinsbø combining well and ending with a great header from Torsteinsbø that left Tromsø goalkeeper Benny Lekström with no hope. But, it was too little too late, Sandnes Ulf suffering their second away defeat in as many games, still without a win this season and with just two points. Tromsø, on the other hand, retained their spot at the top of the table, unbeaten after three strong wins and a draw.

Brann suffered their third defeat in four games when they hosted Strømgodset, the home side unable to find the back of the net at all until the 92nd minute. Alexander Aas, the victim of a horrendous assault outside a nightclub in Skien less than a month ago, put the away side ahead just four minutes before half time, his headed effort from an Øyvind Storflor corner bouncing in past Piotr Leciejewski in the Brann goal. Strømgodset went into the break 1-0 up and then doubled their lead just before the hour mark, Peter Kovács – subjected to boos from the Brann fans throughout due to his controversial goal against the side when playing for Odd Grenland in 2009 when he placed in the ball into the back of the net despite goalkeeper Håkon Opdal lying on the floor injured – the goalscorer, heading in from another set piece, this time a free kick from the right from Razak Nuhu. Strømgodset held the home side back until two minutes into extra time when eighteen-year-old substitute Kristoffer Barmen bundled away the ball into the net from close range after fellow substitute Oumar Niasse failed to connect with the ball properly from a Chukwuma Akabueze corner. The 2-1 loss means that Brann finish Round 4 in twelfth place, sandwiched between Fredrikstad and Lillestrøm, equal on points with the latter and also with Odd Grenland. However, Strømgodset’s season goes from strength to strength, the Drammen-based side now in third place, just one point behind second place Rosenborg.

Aalesund got their first win of the season and remain unbeaten thanks to a 2-1 victory at home to Odd Grenland. After three draws in their first three games, which only saw them hit the back of the net once, Demar Philips put the home side ahead after 32 minutes, his shot from the edge of the box deflecting off Estonian striker Sander Post who was seemingly in an offside position before beating Odd Grenland goalkeeper André Hansen. Despite Hansen’s protests, the referee and linesman decided that the goal would stand. There was also controversy surrounding Odd Grenland’s 64th minute equaliser after Demar Phillips was fouled near the halfway line just moments before poor defending from Aalesund allowed the ball to fall to Snorre Krogsgård just outside the box, the youngster then side-footing the ball beautifully between the near post and an outstretched Sten Grytebust. However, the win was wrapped up by Jonatan Tollås Nation eleven minutes later when he scored his first ever Tippeligaen goal, heading in backwards in front of goal past Hansen who was rooted to the spot in the middle of his goal. Unbeaten Aalesund move up to eighth, level on points with Sogndal, Hønefoss and Molde, whilst Odd Grenland’s poor start to the season sees them down in fourteenth place with three points.

Sogndal, who narrowly avoided relegation last year after finishing fourteenth, continued their impressive and unbeaten start to the season with a 1-1 draw against a Haugesund side who had comfortably beaten reigning champions Molde 2-0 two weeks earlier. It only took the home side ten minutes to go ahead, Senegalese striker Malick Mane – returning to Norway after a season playing for Kazakhstani side FK Aktobe – turning the ball into the net after Haugesund goalkeeper Per Morten Kristiansen could only parry Ørjan Hoppen’s free kick into the striker’s feet. On the 68th minute, Sogndal goalkeeper Kenneth Udjus broke the record for the longest time without conceding a goal, passing Daniel Örlund’s record of 553 minutes, set in 2010. However, just four minutes after the record had been broken, Udjus found himself picking the ball out of the back of his own net for the first time since the 16th October last year, Alexander Søderlund scoring from the edge of the box after Udjus pushed a bouncing ball into the path of the Haugesund striker. The draw sees Sogndal in sixth place after Round 4 with six points after a win and three draws so far, and the point puts Haugesund in tenth place, just one point behind.

Sunday’s last game was also a 1-1 draw, this time between Lillestrøm and Vålerenga at the Åråsen Stadion. It didn’t take long for the away side to get into the game, last month’s signing Martin Pusic, who scored on his league debut for the club against Haugesund, putting them ahead after only thirty-two seconds, breaking through the middle of the Lillestrøm defence before firing past Sead Ramović. Further drama then struck eight minutes later when Lillestrøm’s Björn Sigurðarson and Vålerenga’s André Muri clashed in the air, the Vålerenga man falling unconscious to the ground, suffering severe concussion and needing to be transferred to hospital for further investigation. After constant attacks throughout the first half, from Sigurðarson in particular, Lillestrøm finally managed to equalise when they were awarded a penalty after 38 minutes, Johan Andersson being taken down on the edge of the area. Petter Moen stepped up and sent Vålerenga goalkeeper Lars Hirschfield the wrong way, tucking the ball coolly into the bottom left hand corner. Luke Rodgers, who had come on as a substitute mid-way through the second half, had a fantastic opportunity to put Lillestrøm ahead with barely any time left to play, but he found himself unable to connect with the ball three yards out from a Sigurðarson cross, the ball slightly too far behind him. The draw means that Lillestrøm remain without a win so far this season, currently lying in 13th place with three points, whilst Vålerenga lie in fourth place with seven points, three behind leaders Tromsø.

Monday evening saw the remaining two games being played between Viking and Molde and Stabæk and Hønefoss, respectively. Reigning champions Molde travelled to the Viking Stadion confident of a win after beating Brann 2-1 the week before, with Viking themselves losing 1-0 to Vålerenga. However, it was the home side that took all three points, Martin Ørnskov with the only goal of the match six minutes into the second half, slicing the ball on the volley through Vegard Forren’s legs in the Molde defence and into the bottom left hand corner of the goal, out of the reach of Espen Bugge Pettersen. Molde had several chances to equalise but found themselves unable to convert any of them. The closest the side came was when Even Hovland’s spectacular close range overhead kick smashed the cross bar. A poor performance from Molde means that they finish Round 4 in ninth place, Viking lying one point in front of them in fifth.

The final game of Round 4 saw new boys Hønefoss continue their incredibly impressive unbeaten run and secure their first win of the season with a 2-0 win away to a poor Stabæk side who have now lost their last three league games in a row. New young Finnish striker Riku Riski scored both of Hønefoss’ goals, both also counting as his first ever goals for the club after moving from Polish side Widzew Łódź at the start of the year. His first came from the penalty spot just two minutes into the second half after substitute Rune Bolseth was taken down in the area, Riku Riski sending Stabæk goalkeeper Jan Kjell Larsen the wrong way to make it 1-0. The Finnish striker then doubled their lead three minutes into extra time with one of the last kicks of the game, he and Heiner Mora (another recently acquired player from Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa) breaking away from the Stabæk defence who were on the attack before Mora passed the ball across to the Finn for him to blast past Larsen to wrap up all three points after a spectacular all-round performance. The win takes Hønefoss up to seventh place, equal on points with Molde, as well as Sogndal and Aalesund. Stabæk, however, remain bottom of the table with just a single point from the first four games of the season.

At the end of Round 4, Tromsø stay top of the table, still unbeaten with ten points. Rosenborg lie behind them on eight points, also unbeaten, whilst Strømgodset, Vålerenga and Viking are all on seven points in third, fourth and fifth position, respectively. Impressive starts to the season for Sogndal and Hønefoss mean that they lie in sixth and seventh place, both with six points, and Aalesund and Molde also have six points behind them in eighth and ninth. Haugesund drop to tenth with five points, as do Fredrikstad to eleventh with four, one point in front of an under-achieving Brann, Lillestrøm and Odd Grenland in twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth, respectively. Newly promoted Sandnes Ulf haven’t started the season quite as strongly as fellow promoted side Hønefoss and they lie in fifteenth with two points, Stabæk staying bottom of the table with just one point and, even more depressingly, one goal scored in four games.

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