Danish Superliga – Round 3
After bouncing back from an opening day draw against newly-promoted Silkeborg by beating Midtjylland 2-0 last weekend, reigning champions Aalborg were again held to a draw in Round 3. This week’s came away to Odense, who before the meeting between the two sides at TRE-FOR Park on Saturday were without a point after a dismal start to the new season.
However, it took Rasmus Falk just over half-an-hour to give the home fans something to cheer about when he put Odense 1-0 ahead with a, quite frankly, average long-range shot that took a cruel deflection off the leg of Rasmus Thelander to send it looping over goalkeeper Nicolai Larsen’s outstretched hand. The hosts then missed a great chance to double their lead just four minutes later when a swift counter-attack found its way to an unmarked Emil Larsen, but the striker fired his shot straight at the goalkeeper, much to the relief of the embarrassed Aalborg defence. The miss would prove to be costly, as Aalborg scored what would prove to be the all-important equalising goal midway through the second half with one of the half’s only clear-cut chances, a deft close-range chip over goalkeeper Mads Toppel by the marauding full-back Patrick Kristensen.
Whilst Aalborg will have been disappointed at having to share a point with a side that have struggled in their opening two games of the season, the draw does mean that they are one of only three sides yet to be beaten this campaign. The others are SønderjyskE and København, two teams that finished last season at completely different ends of the table. SønderjyskE won 2-0 against Silkeborg in Friday evening’s clash at Mascot Park, thanks to goals at either end of the second half from Bojan Golubović – recently signed from Romanian side Ceahlăul Piatra Neamț – and 20-year-old substitute Andreas Oggesen, whilst København were required to come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Vestsjælland on Saturday.
The latter side had impressed in their opening two games, narrowly losing 3-2 against Nordsjælland before comfortably beating Odense 3-1, and they continued their good form by taking an early two goal lead against the 10-time Superliga champions, thanks to first goals of the season for Dennis Sørensen and Marc Dal Hende, both resulting from København’s clear weakness down their right flank. Vestsjælland managed to go into the half-time break 2-0 ahead but found their lead reduced to just one goal soon after the restart when Andreas Cornelius leapt high to head in from close range. The former Cardiff City striker would then level the scoreline five minutes later, this time from the penalty spot after Nicolai Jørgensen was brought down inside the box by a clumsy challenge from Oliver Lund. Cornelius sent the ball flying past the reach of goalkeeper Thomas Mikkelsen with the resulting spot kick, salvaging a point for his side and keeping them just one point behind the league leaders in the process.
Midtjylland currently lead the way with six points, although they are equal on points with Hobro, Nordsjælland and Randers, as all four sides have won twice and lost once so far this season. Midtjylland bounced back from last week’s defeat away to Aalborg by beating Randers 3-1, with 19-year-old Danish youngster Pione Sisto scoring a second-half brace to cancel out Viktor Lundberg’s 30th-minute opener, before Morten Rasmussen wrapped up the win with his 100th Superliga goal in the 85th minute. Meanwhile, Hobro arguably produced the biggest shock of the weekend when they beat Brøndby 2-0 on Sunday in their first ever Superliga home game. After fantastic goalkeeping from Lukas Hradecky kept Hobro’s dangerous strike force at bay, the Brøndby shot-stopper’s hard work was undone by Fredrik Holst when the defender tripped up Jacob Tjørnelund on the edge of the box to give away a penalty, which Martin Thomsen calmly slotted past the Finn. Brøndby had a plethora of chances to equalise but were unable to convert any of them, and their sloppiness in front of goal would prove costly as youngster Mads Hvilsom scored what would prove to be the game’s last goal in the 75th minute to wrap up an historic win for last season’s 1st Division runners-up.
As for Nordsjælland, they treated the 3,000 fans inside Farum Park to arguably the best game of the weekend when they won 3-2 against struggling Esbjerg on Sunday afternoon. The hosts went ahead after half-an-hour through young talent Uffe Bech but found themselves 2-1 down midway through the second half after Martin Pušić and Jakob Ankersen both scored within a minute of one another, with the former’s headed goal making amends for his penalty miss in the first half.
However, just as they did against Vestsjælland in the opening game of the season, Nordsjælland fought back to claim all three points, with Bech scoring again – this time from the penalty spot after being fouled by Magnus Lekven – eight minutes after Ankersen had given Esbjerg the lead before Joshua John won the game for his side with a close-range tap-in just four minutes later. The defeat leaves Esbjerg near the foot of the table with just one point from their opening three games, equal on points with both Odense and Silkeborg, the latter of whom they face in their next league clash on Monday evening.
Allsvenskan – Round 17
Whilst Malmö FF race away to back-to-back Allsvenskan titles, a fierce fight for the two Europa League qualification spots behind them is in full swing, with five sides embroiled in it after a plethora of shock results in recent weeks have played havoc with the top half of the table. For the time being, AIK and Häcken sit in the Europa League places in second and third spot, respectively, after the former were victorious this weekend whilst the latter drew to extend their unbeaten run to four league games. Häcken’s draw came against Norrköping, whom they were held to a goalless draw by at Norrköpings Idrottspark on Saturday, and it keeps them ahead of fast-approaching Elfsborg – coincidentally, their next league opponents – on goal difference only, after the fourth-place side won 1-0 at home to Åtvidaberg to record back-to-back wins after previously going four games without a victory.
As for AIK, they won an incident-filled game against an out-of-form IFK Göteborg side at Nya Gamla Ullevi on Monday evening. The visitors were ahead after 34 minutes thanks to a third goal of the season for Nigerian striker Kennedy Igboananike, whose soft shot from the left hand side of the penalty area somehow managed to beat John Alvbåge at the near post, and they then found themselves a man ahead too just nine minutes into the second half when IFK Göteborg’s Norwegian defender Kjetil Wæhler was shown a straight red card for elbowing Igboananike in the face.
Beating AIK, who have only lost once in their last 12 league games, was always going to be a tough task for the hosts, and Wæhler’s dismissal made it nigh on impossible, as it led to their opponents doubling their lead six minutes later when Nabil Bahoui linked up well with Igboananike on the edge of the IFK Göteborg penalty area before the 23-year-old Swedish striker chipped the ball over Alvbåge and into the back of the net. AIK were then reduced to 10 men themselves at the end of the game when newly-signed Finnish defender Sauli Väisänen, who was making his first appearance for the club after joining from Veikkausliiga champions HJK two weeks ago, received a second yellow card, but, despite Robin Söder’s best efforts, IFK Göteborg were unable to find a way back into the game in the latter stages, forcing them to taste defeat for the second time in as many weeks.
The loss means that IFK Göteborg finish Round 17 in sixth place, and they now lie two points behind Kalmar, who have also been struggling to pick up wins recently, with only one of their last six league games ending in a victory. This week saw them have to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to bottom-of-the-table Brommapojkarna, despite the fact that they went a goal ahead after only six minutes through David Elm, and it leaves them without a win in a month and in danger of falling far behind both AIK and Häcken, who are finding wins easy to come by at the moment.
In similar form to Kalmar are seventh-place Djurgården, who are winless in their last three league games after they drew 2-2 against Helsingborg on Monday evening. The clash at Tele2 Arena almost ended in a third consecutive defeat for the Stockholm-based side but Swiss substitute Aleksandar Prijović – who has often been their saviour at the last minute this season – was on hand to head in an equalising goal with just two minutes left to play, and just four minutes after he had entered the pitch to replace Haris Radetinac. The draw keeps Djurgården three points ahead of both Norrköping and Åtvidaberg, who sit in eighth and ninth place, respectively.
At the foot of the table, Halmstad’s recently found good form has helped to lift them out of the relegation zone, and they now lie in 13th place with 17 points thanks to much-needed back-to-back wins. Last week saw them win 3-2 at home to Gefle in an action-packed game at Örjans Vall, whilst this week they won against another side in the bottom half of the table when they narrowly beat Örebro 2-1 away from home, thanks to two late goals from Mikael Boman and Eric Smith, the latter of which came in the 91st minute and was the 17-year-old Swedish midfielder’s first ever professional goal.
The win moves Halmstad ahead of Örebro, sending the latter side down to the relegation play-off spot and leaving them without a win in their last 11 league games and now just one point clear of Mjällby, who were unable to build on last week’s fantastic 3-0 win at home to IFK Göteborg and instead were beaten 1-0 by Gefle on Monday. Mjällby and Örebro will meet each other at Strandvallen next Saturday afternoon, and a win there for the former side will lift them out of the relegation zone and send Örebro down in their place.
12th-place Falkenberg are also in danger of dropping into the relegation zone after a poor string of results has left them just two points clear of Mjällby. This weekend saw them take an early lead against Malmö FF through Ghanaian teenager Godsway Donyoh only to end up losing 5-2 to the league leaders, with Johannes Vall scoring a last-minute consolation goal after Markus Rosenberg, Emil Forsberg, Magnus Eriksson and Agon Mehmeti (whose two first-half goals were his first for the club since returning to Sweden after spells abroad with Palermo, Novara and Olhanense) had all hit the back of the net for Malmö FF over the course of an action-packed hour. The win keeps Malmö FF six points clear of AIK ahead of next week’s big clash against IFK Göteborg at Swedbank Stadion.
Tippeligaen – Round 18
This week saw only two of the sides in the top half of the table pick up a victory, with plenty of shock results leaving Tippeligaen as close as ever as we near the final third of the season.
The biggest surprise this weekend was arguably Stabæk’s fantastic 4-1 win at home to Rosenborg, with three of their goals coming in the space of 23 minutes in a great first half for Bob Bradley’s struggling side. They were helped somewhat by Kåre Ingebrigtsen’s decision to field a weakened Rosenborg team ahead of their Europa League clash at home to Turkish club Karabükspor on Thursday evening, but, nonetheless, Stabæk still showed much of the flair and finesse that characterised their early season good form.
Franck Boli opened the scoring in the 23rd minute after being played through by a great lofted ball from new signing Magne Hoseth, and, after Fredrik Brustad had slotted in a second fifteen minutes later, the former Molde midfielder then set up another goal on the stroke of half-time, firing in a corner that bounced off Rosenborg defender Per Verner Rønning’s chest and into the back of the net. Rosenborg pulled a goal back through top goalscorer Riku Riski 12 minutes into the second half but at 3-1 down and seemingly void of a creative spark up front, it was unlikely that they were going to be able to muster up a comeback, and, after a brief pause due to a thunderstorm, Stabæk put an end to any hopes of them doing so by firing in a fourth goal, and Brustad’s second of the game, with six minutes left to play.
The victory brings an end to Stabæk’s seven-game winless streak and sends them up to 10th place in the table, equal on points with Start, who came from behind to hold league leaders Molde to a 1-1 draw on Sunday, and two points ahead of both Sogndal – whose new signing Tom Söderberg scored late on to earn them a 1-1 draw with Strømsgodset – and Haugesund. Like Stabæk, the latter of the two sides also picked up a much-needed and impressive win this weekend, as they won 2-0 away to Sarpsborg 08 to extend their unbeaten run to four games, with three of those clashes ending in victories.
Before this weekend, Sarpsborg 08 had embarked on a four-game unbeaten run of their own, and it looked as if the weather gods were on their side and it was going to remain intact when the players were forced off the pitch in the second half when, like at Nadderud Stadion, a thunderstorm threatened to bring an end to the clash. In the end, the rain subsided enough for the teams to return to the field, and Haugesund were able to hold on to claim three points that send them eight points clear of Brann, who remain in dire trouble in the relegation zone.
Brann have now lost 12 games this season – a record equaled only by bottom side Sandnes Ulf, who were handed theirs by Odd on Sunday when the second-place side came from behind to beat them 3-1 – after this weekend saw them get beaten 4-3 by Lillestrøm in a game at Åråsen Stadion on Friday evening that was as thrilling as it was mad. After finding themselves 2-0 down with 41 minutes on the clock through goals from Petter Vaagan Moen and Marius Lundemo (the former of which came from the penalty spot after Vaagan Moen, a former Brann player, was brought down in the box by Stéphane Badji), Brann were given a lifeline by Pálmi Rafn Pálmason on the stroke of half-time when the Icelandic midfielder accidentally headed in an Erik Huseklepp corner after clashing with goalkeeper Arnold Origi.
Brann then upped the ante after half-time and were rewarded with two goals midway through the half, with Kristoffer Barmen scoring first on 70 minutes before Jakob Orlov hit the back of the net just two minutes later. A goal ahead, all Brann needed to do was concentrate and hold on to their lead for the remaining 18 minutes and, barring any disasters, they would be rewarded with their fourth league win of the season. Disaster did strike, however, as they were reduced to 10 men with nine minutes left to play when Daniel Mojsov received his second yellow card of the game, and Lillestrøm’s numerical advantage would prove costly for Brann, as Fred Friday fired in an equaliser in the 91st minute to steal a point for the hosts. Things then went from bad to worse, as poor defending allowed Vaagan Moen, of all people, to dart into the Brann penalty area before firing past Piotr Leciejewski to put Lillestrøm 4-3 up with one of the last kicks of the game, piling even more misery on Brann and leaving them in very real danger of dropping down to the second tier of Norwegian football for the first time since they were narrowly relegated at the end of the 1985 season.
Brann are now six points behind nearest challengers Bodø/Glimt, who lie in the relegation play-off spot in 14th place after they suffered their sixth defeat in their last seven games, and their fifth in a row, on Sunday afternoon. The loss came against fellow strugglers Aalesund, who, like Haugesund, have slowly but surely started to move away from the drop zone thanks to several good results recently. This weekend’s win, which ended 2-1 thanks to goals from Michael Barrantes and Leke James, moves them equal on points with Bodø/Glimt but ahead on goal difference, setting them up perfectly for their must-win clash away to Brann on Friday evening.
Whilst Stabæk’s superb win at home to Rosenborg was arguably the best result of the weekend, Viking’s draw against Vålerenga was certainly the most impressive, not to mention even crazier than Lillestrøm’s last-minute antics against Brann. After losing a 2-0 lead shortly before the hour mark, Vålerenga looked set to leave Viking Stadion with all three points after the league’s top goalscorer Viðar Örn Kjartansson wrapped up his hat-trick and in-form teenager Ghayas Zahid scored his fourth goal in three games to put them 5-2 ahead with 22 minutes left to play.
However, Viking, who have found victories hard to come by as of late but have only lost once in their last seven league games, refused to die, with substitute Vidar Nisja scoring twice in nine minutes to reduce to deficit to just one goal before Björn Daniel Sverrisson equalised in the 90th minute with a rocket of a shot from 20 yards out, leaving Vålerenga boss Kjetil Rekdal red in the face and his shell-shocked players no doubt on the end of several stern words from the former Norway international when they returned to the dressing room.