Five things we learned from the weekend in Scandinavia

Scandinavia

Åge Hareide decides to kick his wife out to concentrate on the Champions League

Football can do funny things to people, and both managers and players – as well as, in some circumstances, fans – have been known to take some rather rash decisions when it comes to preparing for a big game. For Malmö FF manager Åge Hareide, nothing was more important than last week’s Champions League play-off clash against Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg. Not even his wife. The Norwegian manager admitted in a press conference last Monday evening that his wife was “thrown out and went to the mountains in Norway” to allow him to “go into a bubble and spend a lot of time on the minutiae” in the run up to their tough game in Salzburg on Tuesday evening.

Unfortunately for Hareide, the solitude that he gained from sending his wife away would prove to be of little help against an extremely strong and determined Red Bull Salzburg side, as Malmö FF ended up being beaten 2-1 by the reigning Austrian Bundesliga champions. Emil Forsberg’s 91st-minute goal for the Allsvenskan league leaders could prove to be vitally important, however, ahead of this week’s second leg clash in Sweden, and a victory there will send Malmö FF through to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in the competition’s history.

Despite the disappointment of losing on Tuesday evening, Malmö FF did go and make up for it somewhat by comfortably beating struggling Norrköping 3-0 on Saturday afternoon to remain seven points clear of nearest challengers AIK at the top of the Allsvenskan table. Hareide’s side have only tasted defeat once so far this season – a narrow 2-1 loss to Häcken in a fiery game at Swedbank Stadion almost four months ago – and with just nine games of the season left to play it looks as if his side will be lifting a second consecutive league title come November 2nd.

In-form Örebro’s great escape continues to march on

At the bottom of the Allsvenskan table, a fierce fight to avoid relegation to Superettan continues to rage on, with, realistically, any of the bottom nine sides in danger of dropping to the second tier. One side who will be hoping that they are strong enough to avoid relegation is Örebro, whose fantastic form has seen them rocket up the table and away from the dreaded drop zone in recent weeks. This weekend saw them pick up their third win in their last four league games, as they won 2-1 away from home against 11th-place Åtvidaberg on Monday evening thanks to a second brace in three games for Alhassan Kamara.

The Sierra Leonean striker has played a huge part in his side’s recent fortunes, as, after failing to score a single goal in his first seven appearances of the season, he has now scored six goals in his last four league games, with four of those resulting in impressive victories for Örebro. As a result of this round’s victory, they now sit in ninth place in the table with 25 points, sandwiched between 10th-place Halmstad and eighth-place Helsingborg and seven points clear of the relegation zone. They now face an easily winnable game against bottom side Brommapojkarna, who, in stark contrast to their next opponents, continue to struggle to pick up points and are falling further down into the abyss with each week that passes.

Even with nine games left to play, Brommapojkarna are already dead and buried

Brommapojkarna are truly on their last legs at the moment, and it looks as if the Stockholm side will be playing in Superettan next year after a torrid campaign that has seen them struggle from start to finish. With just one win all season – a 3-0 home victory against fellow strugglers Norrköping at the start of May – Brommapojkarna currently lie bottom of the table with just nine points, only half as many as Mjällby, who join them in the relegation zone in 15th place. This week, even more misery was piled on them, as they were thrashed 4-0 by local rivals Djurgården in a toothless display on Monday evening. The defeat is their fourth in a row, and with only nine games left to play this season it leaves them with little chance of escaping relegation to the second tier for the third time since 2007.

Back-to-back games against Örebro and Norrköping, two teams that are also fighting to avoid relegation, in the next three weeks gives them a chance to claw their way out of the hole that they have found themselves in and mount an attempt at a last-minute escape, but, with their tendency to leak goals at the back whilst failing to convert chances of their own up front, it looks unlikely that they will be able to find much luck against either side, which will surely all but confirm their place in Superettan next season.

One of the most curious things about Brommapojkarna is their ability to win points against sides from the top half of the table whilst continuing to drop points against the sides around them. Four of their six draws this season have come against teams that currently sit in the top six, with the pick of the bunch being a determined and well deserved 1-1 draw at home to Malmö FF at the start of July, whilst nine of their 14 defeats have been handed to them by sides in the bottom half of the table.

Whilst they continue to be unable to deliver killer blows to their nearest rivals, the teams around them continue to push away, leaving them totally isolated and with little hope at the bottom of the table. The question is, even if they are able to pull off shock victories against Örebro and Norrköping in the coming weeks, will it be enough to save them from what is surely an inevitable relegation?

Odd remain Molde’s only realistic challengers for the Tippeligaen table

2014 has been Molde’s year in every possible way. The 2011 and 2012 Tippeligaen champions have absolutely dominated the league this season, winning 15 of their 21 games so far and only losing once all year. They currently lead the way with 50 points, the most a club has ever had at this stage of the season since Rosenborg’s equally impressive domination of the division in 2009. Like the aforementioned league giants, Molde are transforming themselves into the country’s leading club after a poor campaign last year, boasting arguably the strongest side and playing the most attractive football Norway has seen in recent years.

This week saw them prove their power – if it needed proving in the first place – with a comfortable 5-0 thrashing of Aalesund, keeping them firmly in the lead with just nine games of the season left to play. Whilst many are resigned to the fact that Molde will finish the season with their third title in the last four years, there is one side that continue to give them cause for worry and who refuse to give up their dreams of wearing the Tippeligaen crown for the first time in their 120-year history.

After an incredible season in which they have far exceeded the vast majority of people’s expectations, Odd now sit just six points behind Molde in second place with 13 wins under their belt and already as many points as they managed to accumulate in the last two seasons. Manager Dag-Eilev Fagermo has done wonders with the club since taking charge in 2008, transforming them from a side that often struggled near the foot of the table (2007 saw them relegated to the second tier after a poor season in which they finished in the relegation play-off spot for a second consecutive campaign) to one that continuously push for Europa League qualification each season.

This year, it looks as if they may finally achieve that, as Sunday’s 4-1 win at home to Start – their fifth consecutive victory – means that they are now a comfortable seven points clear of reigning champions Strømsgodset, who were beaten 3-2 by Stabæk on Saturday afternoon. Unbeaten in their last 13 league games and with only three defeats all season, even if Molde do go on to claim the Tippeligaen title come November, Odd will be fully deserving of the praise that is no doubt going to be heaped on them when a fantastic year finally comes to an end.

Vålerenga’s inability to hold on to leads is proving extremely costly

In a perfect world, one where manager Kjetil Rekdal isn’t tearing out his hair in anger and frustration, Vålerenga would be safely in third place, on course for Europa League qualification and maybe even troubling in-form Odd for a second place finish. Instead, they are stuck in sixth, four points behind Strømsgodset and without a win in their last four league games.

An inability to hold on to leads is the sole reason for this mess that they have found themselves in, and this week’s clash against Brann was a prime example: 3-1 up with 10 minutes left to play, the Oslo side looked on course for a win that would keep them in fourth place, but instead they were made to pay for their sloppiness and complacency by a revitalised Brann side, who scored twice in seven minutes through Erlend Hanstveit and Birkir Már Sævarsson to steal a much-needed point and condemn Vålerenga to yet another draw.

The game was not an isolated incident either, as this has now happened in three of their last four league clashes, the most notable of which was their almost impressive ability to end up drawing 5-5 against Viking three weeks ago after finding themselves 5-2 ahead with only quarter-of-an-hour left to play. It then happened again against Sarpsborg 08 the following week, as, with eight minutes left to play, they allowed the 10th-place side to score a late equaliser. This week’s draw was surely the last straw for Rekdal, who has seen his side throw away six important points in less than a month.

With so little of the season left to play these mistakes could prove extremely costly, as Vålerenga slowly but surely slip further away from the top three and nearer to a third consecutive disappointing league finish.

The Author

Ben Cullimore

Freelance journalist and long-suffering non-league fan.

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