Tippeligaen weekly round up – Round 1

by Ben Cullimore

TippeligaenHello, again! Tippeligaen is back once more for yet another season of fierce battles and top-quality excitement! After winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Molde side will be looking to make 2013 a truly historic year by picking up their third ever Tippeligaen title, whilst both Rosenborg, who have won the league title a record twenty-two times, and last year’s runners-up Strømsgodset would be aiming for a top-of-the-table finish as well, after finding themselves in the middle of a three-way battle for top spot almost all of the way throughout last season.

However, don’t expect it to be just those three sides fighting at the top of the table, as the likes of Tromsø, Brann, Vålerenga and Viking will be aware that the strong sides that they boast will arguably be a match for last year’s top three finishers. It’s certainly going to be a close one! Without further ado, let’s get started with all of the action from the opening weekend…

Molde kicked off proceedings on Friday evening away to Kjell Jonevret’s Viking. After poor performances in 2009, 2010 and 2011 that saw them finish in tenth, ninth and eleventh, respectively, last season’s fifth place finish was Viking’s highest since 2007, when they finished third. Jonevret’s appointment midway through last season as a replacement for Åge Hareide seemed to work wonders for the Stavanger-based club as they moved from tenth in the table to fourth after just seven games. With this in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we saw Viking challenging for a top-three finish as the season progresses. A strong start would be needed, however, and that’s exactly what they got, beating the reigning champions 2-1 thanks to goals in either half from Veton Berisha and Trond Olsen that cancelled out Matthias Moström’s ninth-minute opener. After playing second best for arguably eighty minutes of the match, Solskjær will be well aware that there is work to be done before their next match against Lillestrøm in two weeks’ time if they are to challenge for the title once again.

Strømsgodset and Rosenborg got off to significantly better starts than their western rivals, beating Sandnes Ulf 2-0 and Odd 1-0, respectively. Péter Kovács and Lars Vilsvik hit the back of the net in either half for Strømsgodset in their comfortable home win against last season’s strugglers, whilst a single goal from Mike Jensen (newly acquired from Danish side Brøndby) was enough for Rosenborg in their away victory in Skien against the club that they were founded as a tribute to back in 1917. It was a cagey affair though, as Frode Johnsen (on his 39th birthday, of all days) missed the chance to score for Odd from the penalty spot after the ball struck the hand of Rosenborg defender Tore Reginiussen. Substitute Adem Güven then seemingly equalised for the home side but his goal was ruled out for offside; however, replays showed that the call was a controversial one, to say the least…

The opening weekend was also a good one for the two newly promoted sides, Start and Sarpsborg 08. Both clubs were relegated to Adeccoligaen at the end of the 2011 season, but bounced back straight away after a strong 2012. It looked like Sarpsborg were going to kick off their return to the top-flight with a win away to Lillestrøm after going 2-0 up with half-an-hour left to play thanks to a fine brace from Norway U19 star Mohamed Elyounoussi, but two goals in three minutes soon after from Petter Vaagan Moen (from the penalty spot) and Thorstein Helstad salvaged a point for last year’s ninth-place finishers. Sarpsborg manager Brian Deane (of Sheffield United, Leeds and England fame) was less than pleased though, claiming that poor decisions from the referee cost them a victory, and accused Vaagan Moen of diving to win his sixty-second-minute penalty. To add insult to injury, Helstad’s equalising goal three minutes later was offside, adding further fuel to the fire of Deane’s rage.

Start’s first game back in Tippeligaen ended with them picking up all three points, despite a second-half scare after a perfect start. 3-0 up after 33 minutes thanks to a rocket of a free kick from Jesper Mathisen, a poke into an open goal from Matthías Vilhjálmsson, and a tap-in after his penalty was saved from Espen Hoff, last year’s Adeccoligaen winners almost lost their way in the second half when Hønefoss tried to initiate a comeback through goals from Mats Kaland and Heiner Mora, but they defended well to hold on to the lead and secure the victory.

In a game that was evenly contested from start to finish, Sogndal and Tromsø had to settle with sharing the points when they drew 2-2 at Fosshaugane Campus on Sunday afternoon. Ricardo Santos put the home side ahead twenty-six minutes into the first half before Remi Johansen equalised for Tromsø moments before the whistle blew for half-time. Ulrik Flo, nephew of Tore André Flo, put Sogndal back ahead five minutes after the restart but Thomas Bendiksen grabbed the deciding Tromsø equaliser ten minutes later with a beautifully struck free kick into the top left corner of Erik Dahlin’s net.

Aalesund got off to the most promising start to the season, much to the delight of new manager Jan Jönsson, with a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Haugesund, with all three goals – one from Tremaine Stewart and two from Michael Barrantes – coming within the first forty-one minutes. Barrantes, who has indicated that he is open to a move away from the club, showed just how important he is for Tangotrøyene and how much he will be missed if he does leave Color Line Stadion in the near future.

It wasn’t such a good start for former Aalesund manager Kjetil Rekdal, however, as his Vålerenga side lost 3-1 against Brann in his first game back as manager of the Oslo club after a six-and-a-half year absence. Fredrik Haugen gave Brann a first half lead when he hit the back of the net after only thirteen minutes, before Kristoffer Larsen doubled their lead shortly after the restart and Fredrik Nordkvelle made it 3-0 with his head with little over quarter-of-an-hour left to play. Torgeir Børven pulled one back for the visitors three minutes later but it was too little too late, leaving Vålerenga, hotly tipped for success this season, to leave Brann Stadion with nothing.

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