It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Tippeligaen with each side having to play four league games over the last one and a half weeks as we get ready for the month-long summer break at the end of this month. But, despite the stresses and strains of such a competitive and demanding schedule, the quality of football has been top-notch throughout, as always!
Strømgodset ensured that they would remain at the top of the table for a third round in a row when they beat Odd Grenland 1-0 on Wednesday evening. The league leaders left it late, but an 87th minute goal from club veteran Alexander Aas – his third of the season – was enough to secure all three points for Ronny Deila’s side. Strømgodset will be looking to continue their fantastic form against Rosenborg next Monday to allow them to go into the summer break on top of the table and in pole position for the restart at the end of June. Odd Grenland, on the other hand, drop from seventh to twelfth, despite the newly seventh-placed side Aalesund only being one point ahead.
Thanks to second half goals from Nigerian striker Chukwuma Akabueze and Icelandic defender Birkir Sævarsson, Brann managed to move up to eleventh after beating strugglers Fredrikstad 2-0 at the Brann Stadion. After a goalless first half, Akabueze hit the back of the net with quarter of an hour to go, his Icelandic teammate then doubling their lead just eight minutes later. The win means that Brann go equal on points with both Odd Grenland and Sogndal, as well as only one point behind seventh to tenth place sides Aalesund, Vålerenga, Sandnes Ulf and Viking, showing just how close the middle of the table is at this point in the season, only seven points separating thirteenth place Odd Grenland and third place Haugesund. As for Fredrikstad, four defeats in their last five matches and only one win at all this season means that they remain second-to-bottom, now five points behind nearest rivals Lillestrøm and well aware that the rest of the table are moving steadily away from them as they struggle to find points.
But, no matter how bad things are going for Fredrikstad at the moment, they’re nowhere near as bad as they’re going for Stabæk after they suffered their ninth straight defeat away to Viking, the home side winning 1-0. After looking like they could finally pick up a point, the only goal of the game came with only three minutes left to play, Vidar Nisja scoring his first of the season. The win means Viking move up two places to tenth, burrowed deeply into the mid-table muddle that so many sides have found themselves in recently. As for Stabæk, they remain rock bottom for yet another week, still with just one point from ten games.
The last two of Wednesday’s games ended goalless, the first between Sogndal and Sandnes Ulf seeing Sogndal move down to thirteenth, whilst Sandnes Ulf moved the other away, the point taking them from tenth to ninth. The second goalless draw was between Vålerenga and Rosenborg, Steffen Iversen missing an opportunity to put Rosenborg ahead after half an hour from the penalty spot after the thirty-five-year-old beat Vålerenga goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld but also beat the left post. That miss would prove to be crucial, the draw meaning that Rosenborg are now seven points behind leaders Strømgodset despite being top of the table themselves just eleven days ago. The point was an important one for Vålerenga though, it being their first point in three games after two consecutive defeats to Tromsø and Hønefoss, the side moving up to eighth from ninth, one of four sides on fourteen points overall.
There were three games played on Thursday evening, two ending in draws. The first of the draws was another goalless game between Lillestrøm and Aalesund. After their poor start to the season, Lillestrøm have picked up two wins and two draws out of their last five league games, these eight points seeing them slowly but surely move towards the rest of the field as they now lie just two points behind nearest rivals Sogndal. However, Magnus Hagland will be well aware that two wins from eleven games just isn’t good enough for his side if they want any hope of improving on last season’s underwhelming thirteenth place finish. Aalesund, however, now find themselves in seventh place at the end of Round 11, top of the pile of the teams on fourteen points due to their superior goal difference and three points behind sixth place Hønefoss.
And it was Hønefoss who were in action in Thursday’s second drawn game, Finnish sensation Riku Riski picking up his fifth goal of the season when he cancelled out Maic Sema’s fifty-first minute goal with a goal of his own in the dying minutes of the game, earning Hønefoss a 1-1 draw against Haugesund and moving them to just one point behind both Tromsø and Rosenborg. A win for Haugesund would have put them two points behind second place Molde, and Riku Riski’s last-minute goal means that they go into Round 12 four points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side and two points in front of Rosenborg and Tromsø.
Round 11’s last game saw Molde win their fifth league game in a row when they beat ten-man Tromsø 3-2. New Czech signing Zdenek Ondrášek put Tromsø up after thirty-five minutes before three second-half goals in eighteen minutes from Jo Inge Berget, Davy Angan and Even Hovland saw Solskjær’s men go 3-1 up with twenty minutes left to play, Tromsø’s Kara Mbodji earning his second yellow card of the game midway through Molde’s impressive attacking period. Remi Johansen pulled one back for the away side in the ninety-third minute but it wasn’t enough, Molde able to hold out for yet another well-deserved win, the three points meaning they stay just one point behind Strømgodset for yet another week.
At the end of Round 11, Strømgodset stay at the top of the table yet again with twenty-five points, Molde one point behind them in second, with Haugesund a further four points behind them in third. Rosenborg and Tromsø are both tied on eighteen points in fourth and fifth, respectively, whilst Hønefoss find themselves in an extremely impressive sixth place with seventeen points. Seventh place Aalesund, eighth place Vålerenga, ninth place Sandnes Ulf and tenth place Viking all go into Round 12 with fourteen points each, eleventh place Brann, twelfth place Odd Grenland and thirteenth place Sogndal all just one point behind them; with the table so tight, Round 12 promises to be a very tasty set of matches indeed! After a resurgence in the last few games, Lillestrøm end Round 11 in fourteenth place with eleven points, Fredrikstad lying in the relegation zone with just six points, whilst Sogndal remain bottom with, yep, you guessed it, still just a single point…