The fight to avoid relegation and battle for the Europa League spots heat up as May 20th rapidly approaches 

The battle to avoid relegation from the Superliga has been fiercely fought all season long, and with only two games left to play it remains as close as it ever has been. Just five points separate seventh-place AGF and eleventh-place Brøndby, and with tenth-place Horsens facing ninth-place SønderjyskE on Thursday before hosting Brøndby next Monday, it looks as if it’s going to go right to the wire.

Horsens were given a boost in their bid to avoid relegation to the 1st Division when they picked up their second win in their last five games thanks to a 2-0 win at home to bottom-of-the-table Silkeborg. The latter now sit four points behind nearest rivals Brøndby and five behind Horsens, and anything less than a win against sixth-place Midtjylland on Thursday evening will condemn the 1993-94 Superliga champions to the 1st Division for the first time since the 2007-08 season, when they spent two seasons in the second tier after being relegated at the end of the 2006-07 season.

Brøndby extended their unbeaten streak to four games when they drew 1-1 with fourth-place Aalborg, but the point wasn’t enough to pull them out of the relegation zone by the time Horsens had played twenty-four hours later and leaves them with a mammoth task in the remaining two games. The ten times Superliga champions have been embroiled in crises for much of the decade, and last season saw the club from the capital finish just two places clear of the relegation zone after winning only nine games over the course of the campaign. With a game against reigning champions Nordsjælland on Thursday and the aforementioned clash of the season away to Horsens next week, it looks as if Brøndby’s time in the Superliga might be coming to an end unless they can pull off a last minute great escape to save themselves from playing in the second tier of Danish football for the first time since 1981.

SønderjyskE remain in danger of relegation after they lost 2-1 away to AGF in Saturday’s lone game, with Osarna Akharraz and Søren Larsen scoring for the hosts, and Johan Absalonsen pulling one back for the visitors after fifty-six minutes. The win is AGF’s first since the middle of March, after last season’s fifth-place finishers found themselves on a terrible run of seven games without a win, with five of those being defeats, which saw them drop dangerously close to the relegation zone. However, the three points moves them above SønderjyskE to seventh, one point ahead of eighth-place Odense and five clear of the relegation zone.

Despite the scoreline being even at 1-1 after sixty-five minutes of play, Odense went on to lose 4-1 to second-place Nordsjælland when they travelled to play the reigning champions on Friday evening. Nicolai Stokholm put the hosts ahead after quarter-of-an-hour to give them a half time lead, but Marcus Pedersen, on loan from Dutch side Vitesse, equalised for Odense five minutes into the second half. However, the Nordsjælland onslaught started fifteen minutes later and a double in two minutes from Anders Christiansen and an eighty-fifth minute goal from twenty-one-year-old substitute Oğuzhan Aynaoğlu (his first for the club) made sure that second-place and the all-important Champions League qualifying spot were guaranteed for last year’s champions.

Although they always looked certain to take second place as the season drew to a close, despite a recent poor run, the runners-up spot was confirmed on Sunday when third-place Randers lost 3-0 away to Midtjylland, thanks to first half goals from Erik Sviatchenko, Danny Olsen and Petter Andersson. Randers have now only won once in their last five league games and as a result sit only two points ahead of Aalborg and a further two points behind fifth-place Esbjerg.

Third and fourth place finishes result in a spot in next year’s Europa League competition, and Esbjerg, who have now won their last three games in a row after they beat champions København 2-0 this weekend to stretch their run of games without a win to four, could well squeeze into one of them at the last minute, especially seeing as Aalborg and Randers play each other on the final day of the season. Although it’s not quite as close as the battle at the bottom, the fight for third and fourth looks like it’s going to be just as tasty.


Molde finally win, whilst Strømsgodset extend their unbeaten run and lead at the top of the table

Hallelujah, Molde have finally won a game! They did so in some fashion too, beating Aalesund 4-1 in the Møre og Romsdal derby. Recently acquired Finnish defender Joona Toivio scored the opening goal with a wonderful free kick after twenty-five minutes, before Magnus Wolff Eikrem doubled their lead ten minutes later. Michael Barrantes pulled one back for Aalesund seven minutes into the second half but two goals in four minutes from Jo Inge Berget eleven minutes later wrapped up a wonderful – and much-needed – win for the reigning champions. Facing struggling Sandnes Ulf, who lost 3-2 to Sarpsborg 08 during the week, despite going ahead twice through Tommy Høiland goals, on Sunday, it looked as if the win might have given Molde the confidence to finally kick start their season after a truly terrible opening seven games, but it wasn’t to be as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Sandnes Idrettspark on Sunday afternoon to leave them bottom of Tippeligaen with six points.

Despite the emphatic nature of their defeat to the league’s bottom side, Aalesund bounced back in the most impressive way when they thrashed Lillestrøm, who had fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Sogndal during the week, an incredible 7-1 at home to reclaim second spot. The disappointment for the visitors started after only two minutes when Isak Scheel put the ball into the back of his own net, and despite Ohi Omoijuanfo scoring his second goal in as many games to even the scoreline just four minutes later, Aalesund’s absolute domination started soon after with both Leke James and Michael Barrantes hitting the post one after another, before the former put the hosts ahead with four minutes of the first half remaining and Fredrik Ulvestad made it 3-1 six minutes later. The Aalesund onslaught continued just before the hour mark when Fredrik Carlsen scored his first league goal since April 2010, and a hat trick from February signing Abderrazak Hamdallah (with his first coming from the penalty spot) wrapped up the perfect win for Aalesund and the biggest home win in Tippeligaen since, ironically, Lillestrøm thrashed Stabæk 6-0 last season.

Tromsø too won in fantastic fashion this weekend when they bounced back from a 2-1 defeat to Rosenborg on Wednesday evening to slaughter Sarpsborg 08 5-0 in front of 4,000 fans at Alfheim Stadion. They only managed to score once in the first half, however, with the lone goal coming from Magnus Andersen after twenty-six minutes, but Remi Johansen and Zdeněk Ondrášek both scored to put Tromsø 3-0 up with little over an hour played, before Johansen scored again after seventy-seven minutes and substitute Stefan Nystrøm joined in the fun moments after entering the field of play in the 90th minute to complete an outstanding win for a side who seem to be slowly but surely finding their feet this season. As for Sarpsborg 08, the defeat is only their second in the league this year and leaves them on equal points with Tromsø in eighth place after an impressive start to the season, but manager Brian Deane will have to be careful that the excessive nature of this weekend’s loss doesn’t affect his players too much and hinders what could potentially be a fantastic season for them back in the top tier.

Rosenborg have bounced back from their recent slump that saw them go four league games without a win and were able to add a 2-1 win away to Hønefoss on the weekend to the win by the scoreline over Tromsø during the week. The twenty-two times Tippeligaen champions finish Round 9 in third place as a result, equal on points with Aalesund but only one in front of fourth-place Viking.

Leaders Strømsgodset were also had to share the points with a struggling side when they drew 1-1 with Odd on Thursday evening, but when they met Brann at home on Sunday they were able to win their sixth game of the season, and their fourth in their last five games, thanks to a twentieth-minute own goal from youngster Henrik Gjerstad and a diving header from Adama Diomandé twenty-one minutes later. Brann had beaten Start 2-0 midweek to move up to second, but the defeat to Strømsgodset leaves them in fifth place at the end of Round 9, sandwiched between Viking on sixteen points and Haugesund on fourteen.

The aforementioned sides drew 0-0 with one another during the week and went on to pick up weekend wins to move up the table and put pressure on the top three. Viking’s victory came against Start as they narrowly beat the newly promoted side 2-1 – thanks to a last-minute own goal from Babacar Sarr – to condemn them to twelfth place after going five league games without a win, whilst Haugesund’s came against Vålerenga as they beat them 1-0 to complete a poor week for the Oslo side after they lost 2-1 to Hønefoss on Wednesday evening. They now sit in the relegation play-off place in fourteenth after a terrible start to the season has seen them win just three times under the guidance of returning manager, and former player, Kjetil Rekdal.

At the bottom of the table, Sogndal moved up to ninth place as they extended their unbeaten run to three games with a 2-0 win at home to Odd on the weekend after their aforementioned 2-2 draw with Lillestrøm during the week. Meanwhile, the result leaves Odd in second-to-bottom-place in the relegation zone, just two points ahead of Molde and one point behind Vålerenga after only managing to win twice so far this season.


Managerless Djurgården are finally victorious, whilst Helsingborg’s dominance continues 

After picking up only one point in their first seven games of the new Allsvenskan season as a result of some truly shocking performances, Djurgården, who are still without a manager after the resignation of Magnus Pehrsson following threats from supporters, finally won their first game of the season this weekend. Despite being thrashed 5-1 by Åtvidaberg last weekend, the Stockholm side fought back from behind against Malmö FF to beat them 3-2, despite going down to ten men when Daniel Amartey received a red card after seventy-two minutes, with Mattias Östberg’s eighty-eighth minute goal completing the comeback and cancelling out first half goals from Tukelo Rantie and Magnus Eriksson. Helsingborg remain bottom of the table with only four points but the victory will no doubt do wonders for the side’s confidence after a woeful start to 2013. Meanwhile, Malmö FF are now without a win in their last three league games and drop to fifth place with fifteen points as a result.

On equal points with Malmö FF in fourth are Mjällby after they comfortably beat Syrianska FC 4-1 at Strandvallen on Sunday. Kristian Haynes ends Round 8 as joint top goalscorer with six goals after he picked up a hat-trick on the weekend, with his first coming after only a minute had been played, and New Zealand midfielder Craig Henderson also hit the back of the net to pick up his first goal of the season. The defeat – their second in a row – leaves Syrianska FC in the relegation zone in fifteenth place, three points ahead of Djurgården and equal on points with fourteenth-place Gefle and thirteenth-place Halmstad, who were both also defeated this weekend.

Gefle dropped into the relegation play-off place as a result of their 4-1 loss away to eleventh-place Brommapojkarna, who had previously failed to win in their last four games, whilst Halmstad narrowly lost 1-0 to second-place IFK Göteborg on Saturday.

The win moves IFK Göteborg up to second place, two points behind Helsingborg and just one in front of Elfsborg after the frighteningly in-form reigning champions won their fourth consecutive league game, 2-1 against eighth-place Norrköping, and, thanks to Malmö FF’s defeat, finish Round 8 as the only side still unbeaten in 2013.

Leaders Helsingborg went one better, however, when they extended their winning streak to five games thanks to a 5-0 thrashing of Häcken at home, with four different players – Robin Simović (who scored twice), Loret Sadiku, David Accam and Álvaro Santos – on the score sheet for the 2011 champions.

Back in the bottom half of the table, Öster suffered their fourth defeat in a row when they lost 1-0 at home to Åtvidaberg on Monday evening to leave them just one point clear of the relegation zone, whilst the win moves Åtvidaberg up to seventh with eleven points and extends their unbeaten run to three games.

Kalmar are also on an impressive unbeaten run at the moment and extended theirs to five thanks to a 2-1 victory at home against AIK, with Mans Söderqvist and Jonathan Ring scoring for the hosts before substitute Atakora Lalawelé scored a consolation goal in the final moments. The defeat sees AIK drop into the bottom half of the table and finish the week in tenth, whilst Kalmar sit in sixth, two points either side of Malmö FF and Åtvidaberg.

Ben Cullimore

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