Tippeligaen Weekly Round Up

by Ben Cullimore

As the rest catch up, Molde’s lead at the top of the Tippeligaen table continues to shrink. Only seven points now seperate the league leaders and second place Tromsø, the latter with a game in hand over the former still too. The gap could easily be more, but another incredibly action-packed week of football held Tromsø back and caused plenty of upsets and excitement along the way.

Rosenborg and Sogndal kicked off the week when they met each other in Trondheim on Thursday. Both teams knew that defeat there was not an option, Rosenborg to stay part of the battle at the top, Sogndal to stay away from the battle at the bottom. After scoring seventeen goals in the last three league games, Rosenborg were clear favourites to take all three points, but a Sogndal goal after only sixteen minutes thanks to Ulrik Flo caused concerns in the home camp. It took until the seventy-fourth minute for Bořek Dočkal to make the scoreline even once again, and eight minutes later star signing John Chibuike grabbed the win for Rosenborg with only eight minutes left on the clock. No matter how shaky their performance was and how hard they were made to work for the win, Rosenborg will be relieved that the three points are theirs and that their title chances are still well and truly alive.

Friday evening saw Molde play host to Viking, both teams in high spirits after wins the following week. With Tromsø fast approaching, a Molde win was vital to keep their nearest rivals for the league title at bay. Viking too were eagerly looking for a win for a final push into the top half of the table. But, it was not to be as neither side found themselves able to find the back of the net, the game ending goalless. All Molde could do now is wait and hope that the points dropped weren’t points that  Tromsø could pick up.

After a few lacklustre performances and a 2-0 loss to Tromsø the week before, Strømgodset faced Stabæk at home on Saturday, only a single point separating the two teams. A close contest throughout, the game was won by the home side after fifty minutes of play thanks to a Ola Kamara. Stabæk’s depressing form continues with the side only managing to secure one point out of the last five games, dropping down to ninth, two points behind a strong Odd Grenland side.

But, despite this poor form, Stabæk can take comfort in the fact that Lillestrøm have it so much worse. After a good start to the season, their form has dropped considerably and they now find themselves without a win in four games. On Sunday they faced relegation-bound Start, without a win in three and lying fourteen points behind them in fifteenth position. If they wanted a return to form, here was their chance to do so. But, as it always seems to be in the unpredictable and totally wild Tippeligaen, it was not to be, Start finding an opener after only thirty-four minutes and then finding the back of the net two more times thanks to Espen Hoff on seventy-three and eighty-five minutes, respectively. What looked like such a promising season for Lillestrøm has turned into an absolute disaster.

Odd Grenland and their three impressive league wins in a row stood in the way of Tromsøand a chance to close in on a nervy Molde side when the two sides met at the Skagerak Arena on Sunday, but after only sixteen minutes of play, the away side were gifted the lead thanks to a Morten Fevang own goal. Despite this set back, Odd pushed hard and were rewarded with an equaliser only eleven minutes later from Håvard Storbæk. Fevang then hit the back of the net again on the forty-eighth minute, but this time finding the right net with a penalty kick after Saliou Ciss’ dismissal for Tromsø to redeem himself for his earlier mistake and to put the home side 2-1 up. An Odd win was then wrapped up in the ninetieth minute with one of the goals of the season, Jone Samuelsen heading the ball in from his own half after goalkeeper Sahlmann came up for a corner, and in return becoming an overnight internet sensation.

It wasn’t just bad news at the top for Tromsø though, fourth placed Brann suffered a poor 1-0 defeat away to Sogndal. Obviously confident after their close contest with Rosenborg on Thursday evening, the home side were able to find a lone goal to give them the all-important win after thirty-seven minutes thanks to Ørjan Hopen. Brann’s chances of a top-three finish are starting to look under pressure now with only one win out of the last five league games and an on-form Vålerenga fast approaching them.

Seventh place Haugesund were looking to move closer to the top of the table thanks to the misfortunes of Tromsø, Brann and Rosenborg, and they hosted twelfth-place Aalesundat the Haugesund Stadion on Sunday. A single second half goal from Sierra Leonean midfielder Umaru Bangura was all that was needed to gift the home side with all three points, moving them only three points behind third-place Rosenborg.

Vålerenga applied the pressure on the top four with a well-deserved and well-fought 1-0 win at home to Rosenborg, ending the away side’s seven game unbeaten streak. Andrè Muri’s thirty-fifth minute goal gave Vålerenga the lead and despite going down to ten men after Fredrik Stoor’s seventy-ninth minute dismissal after a second yellow card the home side managed to hold on until the final whistle to grab all three points. They now lie just a single point between both Brann and Rosenborg.

This week’s final game took place on Monday night between last place Sarpsborg 08 and fourteenth place Fredrikstadat the Sarpsborg Stadion. The home side were without a win in an incredible fifteen games, Fredrikstad without a win in six. Despite this, it took only one minute for Fredrikstad to take the lead through Tarik Elyounoussi, Costa Rican Celso Borges then making it two ten minutes before the half time break. Sarpsborg’s Stanley Ihugba’s own-goal then made it three for the away side just after the hour mark before Tom Breive managed to pull one back for Sarpsborg five minutes later. But, if it wasn’t already, a Fredrikstad win was confirmed four minutes into injury time thanks to defender Amin Askar. The win takes Fredrikstad up to thirteenth place on equal points with now-fourteenth place Sogndal, seven points clear of Start and the dreaded relegation zone.

After the action and intensity of this week’s matches, the top of the table is still as close and unpredictable as ever. Molde stay top of the table with forty-nine points, despite a slightly shaky last few performances. Tromsø manage to stay in second place, seven points behind the league leaders and three points in front of third-place Rosenborg and fourth-place Brann. But, Rosenborg have been looking dangerous over the past few games, despite losing to Vålerenga on Sunday, and still have a game in hand over Tromsø against Lillestrøm next Friday which, going on Lillestrøm’s terrible form at the moment, they should definitely win. But, let’s not forget that this is the Tippeligaen, so anything could happen. That win for Vålerenga places them only one point behind an off-form Brann who have only managed to secure one win in their last five league games.

In my opinion, the most impressive performance of both the weekend and the last few weeks has been Odd Grenland. They now lie in eighth after an astonishing four league wins a row, now only four points outside of the top three. They play Strømgodset on Sunday and have the opportunity to overtake the sixth-place side and climb even further into the cramped top half of the table.

As for the bottom of the table, it looks like it’s over for both Start and Sarpsborg 08, the latter especially. With only one point from the last five games and seventeen points overall, Sarpsborg’s chances of survival are as good as zero. The same can be said for Start, although they have managed two wins in the last five games, but they are still seven points behind nearest rivals Sogndal who themselves are on an impressive run at the moment with two wins and a draw out of their last five games. But, if anyone is going to drop nearer to the edge of the relegation zone, it is going to be Lillestrøm; they lie in tent but are only four points in front of Sogndal and without a win – not to mention a goal – since their 3-1 win against Sarpsborg at the start of August. It is them that I am most worried about, and even though it is probably just about too late for them to be in any sort of real relegation worry, it could be a bleak end to the season for them with a difficult last six games fast-approaching…

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