Five things we learned in Scandinavia this week

Midtjylland win again to move seven points clear at the top of the Danish Superliga table

Midtjylland have enjoyed a fantastic start to the new Danish Superliga season, and with only a third of the campaign completed they are already starting to pull away from the rest of the pack.

After a 2-1 defeat against Nordsjælland almost exactly one month ago, it looked as if last season’s third-place finishers were in danger of surrendering the top spot to the 2011-12 champions, but three impressive consecutive victories has helped to keep them in pole position, already seven points clear of their nearest challengers after both Nordsjælland, who lie in second place, and Randers, who remain just behind them in third place, despite being without a win in their last three league games, were beaten this weekend.


The former, who have looked an incredibly impressive outfit under the control of new manager Ólafur Kristjánsson, suffered arguably one of the most shocking defeats of the weekend, as they saw their four-game unbeaten run brought to an end by seventh-place SønderjyskE, who won 3-2 in Saturday afternoon’s clash between the two sides at Farum Park, thanks to a first-half Tommy Bechmann brace and an own-goal midway through the second half from Ivan Runje, to pick up only their second victory of the season.

Randers, meanwhile, are starting to struggle after a superb start to the campaign, and they were narrowly beaten 1-0 by København in the capital on Sunday, leaving them equal on points with the 10-time champions, who now occupy fourth place thanks to their third win in their last four games.

Midtjylland faced bottom side Silkeborg on Sunday, giving them the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the defeats for their two nearest challengers and move seven points clear at the top. And that’s exactly what they did, comfortably beating last season’s 1st Division champions 2-1, thanks to goals in either half from Morten Nicolas Rasmussen and Pione Sisto, the former of which came from the penalty spot at the end of the first period.

It is early days still, but, after enjoying a wonderful opening third of the season, Midtjylland already look like they are the team to beat this season.

Another draw for Hobro means that their flying start is slowly coming to an end

Hobro are easily the neutral’s favourite side in the Danish Superliga this season. After a fantastic campaign last year saw them finish in second place in the 1st Division, thus sending them up to the top tier for the first time in their 101-year history, the small club from North Jutland enjoyed a brilliant start to their maiden season, winning four of their opening six league games, with the pick of the bunch being an historic 3-0 victory away to København.

However, the fairytale soon ended, and a string of mediocre results has seen them slowly slip down the table and away from the Europa League qualifying places that they occupied in the opening stages of the season. This weekend was more of the same, as, despite the fact that they went ahead first through Quincy Antipas after only 15 minutes, the recently-promoted side failed to win for a fifth consecutive game, instead having to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw against Aalborg, another side that are struggling at the moment after several poor results.

This weekend’s draw means that Hobro now sit in sixth place, and although they are equal on points with Brøndby, who thrashed Vestsjælland 5-0 on Sunday to move above them and into fifth place, and just one point behind both København and Randers, they now face a tough clash at home to København next week, one that could see them fall further behind the five sides that lie in front of them if they are all victorious in their respective games, which all come against sides that currently sit in the bottom half of the table.

Hobro’s early season success was fantastic and one of the best performances from a newly-promoted side in recent memory, but they finally seem to waking up to the truth of just how difficult a league the Danish Superliga can be. The truth hurts, especially when you are one of the minnows battling against the plethora of big guns that the division boasts.

Falkenberg and Norrköping win again to move four points clear of the Allsvenskan relegation zone

With the title being decided before the international break, everybody’s attention has turned to the battle at the bottom of the Allsvenskan table, where four sides are fiercely fighting to avoid being relegated to Superettan. The conflict has raged for much of the year, dragging in several different clubs during its bloody spell, and, with just two games of the season left to play, the question of who is going to join Brommapojkarna in the second tier next year still does not have an answer.

However, fine results for Falkenberg and Norrköping mean that they were given a huge boost in their attempts to remain in Allsvenskan for another season, as both were victorious this weekend. Falkenberg’s win was arguably the best of the two, as they beat Helsingborg – who before this weekend were unbeaten in their last five league games – 2-0 to extend their winning run to three games, whilst Norrköping won 2-1 away to fellow strugglers Gefle, thanks to first-half goals from Alhaji Kamara and Emir Kujović.

The victory, Norrköping’s second in as many weeks and the first time that they have won back-to-back games all season, moves them out of the relegation play-off zone and up to 13th place, sending Gefle, who have now lost four of their last five league games, down in their place.

Poor recent form means that Gefle are arguably the favourites to finish in the relegation play-off spot come the start of November, especially seeing as they have to face tough clashes against Häcken and Helsingborg in their final two games of the season, whilst Mjällby, who remain one point behind them in the relegation zone in 15th place, are edging ever closer to life in Superettan for the first time since 2009.

This weekend saw them lose for the third game in a row, as Åtvidaberg, who at one point found themselves part of the struggle to avoid relegation, beat them 2-1 at Kopparvallen, thanks to a first-half brace from Brazilian striker Ricardo Santos, whose first goal came after only six minutes had been played. Mjällby face a must-win clash against out-of-form Kalmar – who have also lost their last three league games in a row, with this weekend seeing them lose 3-1 against 10th-place Halmstad – next week before what is bound to be a tense and exciting game away to Falkenberg on the final day of the season.

A victory at Falkenbergs IP could prove to be the difference between relegation and survival for Mjällby, but with the team in such poor form at the moment, and with Henrik Larsson’s Falkenberg full of confidence, the omens are not looking good for the Hällevik side.

A third consecutive defeat leaves Brann in the relegation zone with just three games remaining

Things are not looking good for Brann. Whenever it seems that the Bergen side are finally going to embark on a run of good form that will save their season and confirm their place in next year’s Tippeligaen, they are brought crashing back down to earth by another disappointing defeat that ends up knocking them back considerably.

That was the case three weeks ago when a fine run of six games in which they were only beaten once – with that defeat coming against champions Molde – was brought to a dramatic end by Odd, who thrashed them 4-0 at Skagerak Arena in a game that, to add insult to injury, saw the visitors score two own goals.

From there, Brann went on to lose 2-1 at home to Start in their last league game before the international break, and this week things went from bad to worse, as they let a one-goal lead slip in the final 18 minutes to eventually lose 2-1 against Sarpsborg 08, leaving them without a point in their last three games and with just three clashes left to play before the end of the season.

Their only solace can come in the fact that they face sides around them in those three games – Bodø/Glimt, Sogndal and Haugesund, in that order – but as they currently sit six points behind Bodø/Glimt in 15th place it is unlikely that they are going to be able to catch up with them before the end of the season, even when Bodø/Glimt’s poor form is taken into account, meaning that their best chance of survival lies in overtaking Sogndal at the last minute to finish in the relegation play-off spot in 14th place and hope that they are finally able to find some good form in a two-legged tie against the winner of the 1st Division play-offs.

However, with a terrible season constantly going from bad to worse, Brann’s inclusion in the second tier next season is looking increasingly likely.

Champions Molde lose for just the second time this year to hand Haugesund a huge boost

Also involved in the fight to avoid relegation to the 1st Division are Haugesund, but they picked up a fantastic victory against the most unlikely of opponents this weekend to all but confirm their place in next year’s Tippeligaen. That win, their third in their last four league games, came against champions Molde, whom they beat 2-1 at Aker Stadion to become only the second side to do so all season.

The omens looked good for the visitors at the end of the first half when Daniel Berg Hestad missed the opportunity to put Molde 1-0 up from the penalty spot, and Alexander Stølås and Maic Sema then went on to score for Haugesund in the opening 20 minutes of the second period before substitute Daniel Chima Chukwu grabbed a consolation goal for the hosts one minute into added time.

The victory moves Haugesund up to 12th place with 30 points, one point ahead of Bodø/Glimt, who are now without a win in their last five league games after they were beaten 4-3 by Odd in a thrilling game at Skagerak Arena on Sunday evening. Haugesund also now sit seven points clear of the relegation zone and six points ahead of Sogndal, who still occupy the relegation play-off spot in 14th place after they suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat against bottom side Sandnes Ulf on Sunday, and with both Brann and Sogndal in such poor form at the moment, it is difficult to see Haugesund being in any sort of danger of dropping to the second tier.

They deserve it, too, as they have taken their chances when facing their fellow relegation candidates whilst also pulling off several impressive results against the big guns. It now looks as if the fight to avoid automatic relegation to the 1st Division is firmly between Sandnes Ulf, Brann and Sogndal, and it is sure to be one that is going to go down to the wire, with Haugesund’s final day clash against Brann possibly proving to be the game that condemns one of the three sides to the second tier.

The Author

Ben Cullimore

Freelance journalist and long-suffering non-league fan.

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