Despite only being four games in, the new Tippeligaen season has presented us with some truly extraordinary scenes and results, showcasing just how great a league it really is. Sogndal’s unbeaten start to the season after almost getting relegated the year before is a prime example of the excitement that this still very young season has already offered us in abundance, and when they travelled to the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo on Friday evening to take on a Vålerenga side that had finished the 2011 season thirteen points and seven places ahead of them, their magical start to the season continued.
After their 4-0 opening round thrashing of Odd Grenland, Sogndal had drawn their last three games in a row, 0-0, 0-0 and 1-1 against Hønefoss, Rosenborg and Haugesund, respectively, but the belief that they could seriously better last year’s poor season was still there for everybody to see. They started Friday’s game against Vålerenga strongly, highlighting the weaknesses that Martin Andresen’s Vålerenga side had been showing in the first games of this season, and it only took them fourteen minutes to go ahead, Gustav Valsvik with a glancing header in front of goal from Ørjan Hopen’s swung in free kick from the right. And it was only nine minutes later that Sogndal doubled their lead and scored the last goal of the game, Tonny Brochmann, somewhat luckily, finding the ball at his feet in front of goal after poor Vålerenga defending and an unfortunate deflection, the Danish midfielder controlling the ball and taking it to left side of the goal before placing it past an outstretched and fast approaching Lars Hirschfield in the Vålerenga goal. Sogndal had opportunities to further their lead, Senegalese midfielder Stéphane Badji with a great chance to make it 3-0 when he found himself one-on-one with Hirschfield, but Badji’s low shot was poor, the Canadian goalkeeper able to parry away the attempt with his legs. Vålerenga had their fair share of opportunities too but they never looked strong enough in attack to fight back and achieve a win, Sogndal goalkeeper – and arguably one of the best players so far this season – Kenneth Udjus further showing the class that he has been exhibiting over the past four games, pulling of a string of fantastic saves to keep the visitors ahead, picking up a well-deserved and hard-fought clean sheet. For Sogndal, the dream start continues, but for Vålerenga, Martin Andresen is well aware that a lot of work needs to be done if his side is going to push for a top position this year.
Saturday saw just one game being played, under-performing Brann travelling to the Haugesund Stadion to take on a Haugesund side who had found themselves with a solid seven points from the first four games, compared to Brann’s dismal three. And things looked even bleaker for Brann after the final whistle went, last year’s fourth place finishing side losing 2-1 for the third game in a row this season, their only points so far being picked up against the newly-promoted side Sandnes Ulf. Alexander Søderlund put the home side ahead just after the half hour mark, Michael Haukås setting up Søderlund with a fantastic cross from the right of the box, the striker heading in perfectly into the left hand corner of the goal, just out of the reach of Piotr Leciejewski in the Brann goal. Brann got one back just before half time though, Kim Ojo, who scored fifteen league goals for the club last season, with a towering, powerful header at the other end of the pitch to get his second of the season. Haugesund always looked like scoring after the break, both Tor Arne Andreassen and Nikola Đurđić picking apart the holes in the Brann defence and coming close to putting the home side back into the lead, and it was the latter that grabbed the winner for Haugesund with just seven minutes left to play after Søderlund found his chip over Leciejewski being cleared off the line, the Serbian striker then racing forward to poke the ball into the back of the net and snatch all three points for Haugesund.
Five games were played on Sunday, thirteen goals being scored in all on a day that saw no away side manage a win, Fredrikstad getting closest when they travelled to the Skagerak Arena in Skien to face Odd Grenland. The away side went ahead after only seven minutes thanks to a Kevin Durè header from a corner, the nineteen-year-old’s first ever Premier League goal, before Odd Grenland immediately fought back with intense pressure, Frode Johnsen seeing his headed effort chested off the line in truly acrobatic style before youngster Torgeir Børven saw his low-drilled effort hit the post. Chances came thick and fast after the break too and the home side finally got the opportunity to equalise when Johnsen was brought down in front of goal, Morten Fevang sending Fredrikstad goalkeeper Jon Knudsen the wrong way and making the score line even once again. The chances continued for Odd Grenland but they just couldn’t find a way past Knudsen, the goalkeeper on occasions single-handedly (quite literally) keeping the away side in the game and earning them a well-deserved point.
Newcomers Sandnes Ulf got their first win of the season when they beat a desperately underachieving Stabæk side 2-1 at the Sandnes Idrettspark. Goalless at half time, throw-in wizard Steinthór Thorsteinsson put the home side ahead six minutes into the second half, he and Anel Raskaj playing the ball beautifully between one another on the edge of the box before the Icelander placed the ball past Jan Larsen and into the back of the net. Sandnes Ulf then went 2-0 up just seven minutes later, this time from the penalty spot after substitute Tommy Høiland was brought down in front of goal by Tor Marius Gromstad, Aksel Berget Skjølsvik stepping up and converting the spot kick to double the home side’s lead. Clearly fed up with the inefficiency, Stabæk coach Petter Belsvik replaced both of his strikers not long after Sandnes Ulf’s second, and the move paid off, substitute Fredrik Brustad hitting the back of the net just twenty four seconds after setting foot on the pitch. Despite there being no more goals, there was plenty of action towards the end of the game, two red cards being shown in as many minutes. Sandnes Ulf’s Vegard Aanestad was the first to go when he was awarded a straight red card for his lunge in on Ricardo Clark, and then, just moments later, Gromstad and Høiland clashed again, this time the Stabæk defender taking down Høiland outside of the box instead of inside, but, nonetheless, earning himself a second yellow card. The nightmare continues for Stabæk as they stay rock bottom of the table with just one point after four losses in a row and a -10 goal difference after only five games.
It was also a good day for the other newly promoted side Hønefoss as they managed an impressive 3-1 victory at home to Aalesund, their second win in a row. Rune Bolseth put them ahead after six minutes; a wicked deflection took his shot on the edge of the box just over Sten Grytebust’s outstretched fingers and into the left hand corner of the net. But Aalesund responded in perfect fashion by hitting the back of the net themselves just two minutes later, a fantastic looping free kick from thirty yards proving too much for Hønefoss goalkeeper Steve Clarke to deal with. The teams went into the break even but Hønefoss’ star signing Riku Riski put them ahead again five minutes into the second half after a terrible pass back from Aalesund defender Daniel Arnefjord was able to be pounced upon by the new Finn and slotted into the goal with ease. And Riski then made it 3-1 sixteen minutes later, securing the win and securing his fourth goal of the season in spectacular fashion, beating Arnefjord with a lovely touch before firing in past Grytebust. That’s Aalesund’s first loss of the season after three draws in a row and a win last week against Odd Grenland, but the problems highlighted by Hønefoss were problems that Kjetil Rekdal was well aware of beforehand. If they want to improve on last season’s ninth place finish, a lot of improvements must be made.
Strømgodset’s strong start to the season continued when they beat Viking 1-0 at the Marienlyst Stadion, a goal from the penalty spot just after the half hour mark from Lars Vilsvik the only thing that seperated the two sides after a close game. Before the penalty incident, Strømgodset had started strongly, dominating possession and creating a multitude of chances, Hungarian striker Peter Kovács coming closest for the home side with both his head and his feet on several occasions. And when Alfred Sankoh was seemingly tripped, Strømgodset were offered the perfect opportunity to go ahead, Vilsvik firing down the middle to make it 1-0. Replays showed that the penalty decision was possibly given harshly, Viking manager Åge Hareide even saying at half time that there “must have been a sniper in the Marienlyst today” when referring to how easily Sankoh seemed to fall to the floor. After the penalty, Viking came close on numerous occasions to bagging themselves an equaliser, but it just wasn’t to be, King Gyan at one point seeing his shot on target agonizingly cleared off the line after beating fellow Ghanaian Adam Larsen Kwarasey in the Strømgodset goal. The home side held and gained a well-deserved three points, the win lifting them up to third, equal on points with Tromsø.
Sunday’s late kick off saw two of the few remaining unbeaten sides this season fight to death to retain their places at the top of the table when Rosenborg hosted top of the table Tromsø. A win for Rosenborg would take them to the top of the table, whilst a win for Tromsø would see them move five points clear of Rosenborg with four wins and a draw so far. But, it was the home side that were victorious, three second half goals giving them a comfortable 3-0 win over the former league leaders. A defensive mistake from Ruben Yttergård Jenssen just after the hour mark gave Markus Henriksen the opportunity to put the home side ahead, and he did so in spectacular fashion, firing in from the right hand side of the box, the ball crashing off the far post and into the back of the net to make it 1-0. Eight minutes later Rosenborg made it two, Mikael Dorsin scoring his second offside goal of the season already, the Tromsø defence unable to clear away a Rosenborg corner and finding the ball at the feet of Dorsin who had come back from an offside position just in front of Benny Lekström in the Tromsø goal, the Swedish captain then twisting and placing the ball past his fellow Swede in the opposition’s goal mouth. It was all wrapped up in injury time when substitute Jonas Svensson made it 3-0, the youngster coolly placing the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net after a low cross from Dorsin.
After a nervy start to the season that saw them win twice and lose twice, Molde hosted a Lillestrøm side on Monday evening that had only managed to pick up three points in their first four matches of the season, despite putting in some impressive performances throughout. And, thanks to two goals in three minutes towards the end of the game, Lillestrøm’s bad luck continued as the reigning champions beat them 3-2 to move up the table to sixth. Davy Claude Angan opened the scoring for Molde after twenty-eight minutes, the Ivorian bundling in a goal after a great run from Emmanuel Ekpo set him up to score one-on-one with Sead Ramović. However, replays indicated that Angan might have been in an offside position when the ball was played through, but the linesman’s flag wasn’t raised and the goal stood. After a bit of head tennis in the box from the Molde defenders, Pálmi Pálmason attempted an overhead kick almost directly in line with the penalty spot, the Icelander then seeing, to his amazement, that his tame effort had bounced in off Espen Bugge Pettersen and into the goal, the Molde goalkeeper clearly not happy with his embarrassingly bad mistake. After the break, Pettersen was beaten again, this time from a towering headed effort from Frode Kippe from a corner. But, in true Solskjær fashion, Molde found an equaliser and a winner within mere minutes of one another right at the end of the game, a great team effort setting up Mattias Mostrøm with just five minutes left to play before Daniel Chukwu Chima secured the win for Molde, sliding in to slice the ball past Ramović. Solskjær’s substitutions paid off incredibly, Chima and Moström bagging a goal and an assist each, the former only being on the pitch for eleven minutes before he had managed to achieve both.
After Round 5, Rosenborg replace Tromsø at the top of the table with eleven points after their win over them, Tromsø now in second just a point behind them and equal on points with Strømgodset. Sogndal’s impressive start to the season continues and they lie in fourth, equal on points with both Hønefoss (who are also, amazingly, still unbeaten) and Molde. Haugesund are in seventh with eight points and Viking and Vålerenga drop to eighth and ninth, respectively, with seven points each. Aalesund are a point behind them in tenth whilst Fredrikstad and Sandnes Ulf are a further point behind in eleventh and twelfth, respectively, Sandnes Ulf climbing up from fifteenth place. Odd Grenland’s draw takes them up to thirteenth and a third defeat in a row for an under-achieving Brann side means that they end the round in fourteenth place, equal on points with Lillestrøm who are second bottom, with Stabæk’s torrid time continuing, a fourth straight defeat meaning that they remain at the bottom of the table, still with just one point that they gained in the opening round of the season.