SCANDINAVIA: DENMARK, NORWAY AND SWEDEN WEEKLY REVIEW

Denmark

The Superliga season ends in dramatic fashion as Brøndby escape relegation at the last possible moment

A truly thrilling 2012/13 Superliga season ended this week and did so in fittingly fantastic fashion, with the battles to avoid relegation and to achieve a Europa League qualification spot both going right to the wire!

Horsens, sitting in tenth place with one more point that relegation-bound Brøndby, had the opportunity to go into the final game of the season against Brøndby with an advantage over them if they were able to beat SønderjyskE when the two sides met at Haderslev Fodboldstadion, but despite going ahead after only six minutes through a Bjørn Paulsen own-goal, goals from Henrik Hansen (from the penalty spot, resulting in Mads Agesen being sent off), Lasse Vibe, Johan Absalonsen and a last-minute own goal from Alexander Andersen cancelled out Paulsen’s own goal and a fifty-minute goal from Troels Kløve and condemned Horsens to a 4-2 defeat, their fourteenth of the season.

However, if Brøndby were unable to beat second-place Nordsjælland, Horsens would still go into the final round outside of the relegation zone and one point ahead, but Brøndby were able to pull off a truly incredible win as a double from Simon Makienok and a goal each from veteran Dennis Rommedahl (pictured above) and youngster Lebogang Phiri gave the club from the capital a 4-0 win over the reigning champions.

This left Brøndby only needing to avoid defeat when they travelled to Horsens on the last day of the season to take on the side that they’d been battling alongside in the bottom half of the table for most of the campaign. Unbeaten in their last five league games and with three of those results coming against top four sides, the emphasis was surely with the ten times top flight champions, and that proved to be the case as they valiantly held Horsens at bay, despite going down to ten men after seventy-two minutes when Quincy Antipas was shown a second yellow card, and were even able to catch the hosts on the break and set up Lebogang Phiri to score a last-minute winner to secure Brøndby’s Superliga future and condemn Horsens to their second relegation to the 1st Division in the last five seasons.

Horsens will join Silkeborg in the second tier next season after the 1993/94 Superliga champions’ relegation was confirmed on Thursday when they were only able to draw 1-1 with Midtjylland, leaving them unable to catch either Horsens or Brøndby on the last day of the season, when they drew 3-3 with Odense. The two relegation sides will be replaced by Vestsjælland and Viborg whose promotions were already confirmed before the final day’s games were played on Monday.

Odense finished tenth, four points clear of Horsens and one point behind Brøndby, after a poor end to the season saw them go without a win in their last seven games, with six of those results being defeats. Their fans won’t be happy with their dismal displays in the latter half of the season and things went from bad to worse this week when they were thrashed 6-2 away from home by Esbjerg before allowing Silkeborg to come back from behind three times to draw 3-3, with two of those comebacks occurring in the final six minutes of the game. After never finishing below ninth place since the 1997-98 season (including three consecutive second-place finishes between 2008-09 and 2010-11), Odense have now had two bad seasons in which they’ve finished tenth in both of them. The club brought back Danish Cup winning manager Troels Bech last July to try and turn things around, but that seemingly hasn’t worked and much will have to be done over the summer to try and restore Odense to the heights of the Superliga and propel them back into the top European competitions where they believe they belong.

The other last-day fight involved a battle for the last remaining Europa League qualification spot. With the third and fourth place finishers qualifying for the competition, this year a fifth-place finish would be enough for either Aalborg or Midtjylland if the Danish Cup winners Esbjerg finished in fourth place or above, as their 1-0 cup win against Randers earlier in the month confirmed their place in the Europa League for next season. Thanks to their 6-2 thrashing of Odense on Thursday and Aalborg’s 3-0 defeat away to AGF, Esbjerg went into the final game of the season in fourth place, four points behind third-place Randers, who had confirmed their place in the competition themselves by beating København 1-0 in the second-to-last game of the season, and one point ahead of Aalborg, who themselves sat just two points ahead of Midtjylland after last year’s third-place finishers only managed to draw 1-1 with Silkeborg. With goal differences so close between the three sides, fourth, fifth and sixth place could go to any of them depending on how the final day of the season panned out, and it ended up finishing as close as it possibly could…

Despite losing for the first time in a month when Nordsjælland beat them 1-0, Esbjerg claimed a fourth-place finish, even though they ended the season equal on points with both Aalborg and Midtjylland. The former were saved in the dying embers of the game by Rasmus Thelander who scored to earn his side a 2-2 draw with Randers, meaning that the latter’s 3-2 win at home to AGF wasn’t enough to see them qualify for the Europa League for a third consecutive season, as they finished with a goal difference one worse than Aalborg, who themselves finished with a goal difference one worse than Esbjerg. Without Thelander’s last-minute goal, Midtjylland would be celebrating European qualification yet again. Instead, they will have to settle for a sixth-place finish, their worst since the 2009-10 season when they ended the campaign with an equal amount of points.

Despite their 3-2 defeat away to Midtjylland on the last day of the season after failing to capitalise on their comfortable 3-0 win over Aalborg, AGF bounced back from a poor run of seven games without a win between the end of March and the start of May to avoid slipping towards the relegation zone and finish in seventh place with forty-one points. SønderjyskE, who were also in danger of being relegated at one point, only lost once in their last eight league games to finish in eighth place and equal on points with AGF. The Haderslev side – who finished sixth last year – had the opportunity to take advantage of AGF’s defeat and overtake them at the final hurdle but had to come back from behind to draw 1-1 with København.

As for the champions, their draw might be seen as something of a positive after they embarked on a lackluster final third of the season that highlighted their dominance early in the campaign. A goalless draw away to rivals Brøndby – their third consecutive draw at the time – won them the title with three games left to play, but they only managed to win once in their last ten games of the season after previously winning their last nine in a row. Nonetheless, the ten times champions finish the campaign five points clear of reigning champions Nordsjælland and, despite their late slump, it cannot be denied that they are worthy winners of yet another fantastic Superliga season!

FINAL TABLE:

1. København
2. Nordsjælland
3. Randers
4. Esbjerg
5. Aalborg
6. Midtjylland
7. AGF
8. SønderjyskE
9. Brøndby
10. Odense
11. Horsens
12. Silkeborg

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Norway

Strømsgodset extend their lead at the top to five points, whilst ten-man Molde keep Rosenborg at bay for a hard-earned point

With the games coming thick and fast in Tippeligaen at the moment, this week saw each side in action twice, with the sixteen games played treating us to a whopping forty-four goals. This week’s action kicked off on Thursday with the ‘May 16th Round’ – a day of games played before Norway’s Constitution Day on the 17th – which always proves to be a special and action-packed day, and this year proved to be no different!

Unfortunately, May 16th wouldn’t prove to be as good for Molde as it was last year when they beat Fredrikstad 2-0 to extend their winning streak to three games (they would go on to be unbeaten for seven games during a streak that lasted from the start of May to the end of June, and they won six times during it), as this year they were mercilessly beaten 5-1 by Haugesund in front of a home crowd of almost 9,000. The suffering reigning champions bounced back the next Monday, however, and put on an admirable display to hold back and draw 0-0 with second-place Rosenborg, despite going down to ten men after only twenty minutes when Martin Linnes was shown a straight red card, when the two sides met in Trondheim. Despite still only managing to win once so far this season, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær will no doubt be pleased with his side’s ability to keep a side as strong as Rosenborg at bay for seventy minutes whilst being a man down, and he will also no doubt be impressed with his side’s ability to only lose once – albeit heavily to Haugesund – in their last five games. Although the 2011 and 2012 Tippeligaen champions have yet to turn the corner just yet, you can sense that they might be approaching the bend at least.

As for Rosenborg, the draw leaves them five points behind league leaders Strømsgodset, as well as now unbeaten in their last five games. Before picking up their draw against Molde, the twenty-two times top flight champions beat Sarpsborg 08 4-2 at home on Thursday, thanks to a hat trick from Nicki Bille Nielsen to bring his tally for the season up to five. The Dane put the hosts 2-0 up just after the half-hour mark with two goals in two minutes, but Magnus Sylling Olsen and Guðmundur Þórarinsson hit back in the first half of the second period to make the scores level once again. It looked like the game might end at 2-2 as the final whistle approached but Tarik Elyounoussi, ever the game-changer, put Rosenborg back ahead after eighty-four minutes before winning a penalty four minutes later which Bille Nielsen converted for his hat trick.

Strømsgodset have now won their last three league games in a row – not to mention now being unbeaten in their last nine – and did so in fine fashion, comfortably beating both Sogndal and Start this week. Their 3-1 victory at home to Sogndal on Thursday, thanks to a double from nineteen-year-old Bismark Adjei-Boateng and another goal from twenty-two-year-old Stefan Johansen, was seemingly pleasant enough, but their 6-0 thrashing of Start on Monday was even more so. Adjei-Boateng and Johansen were on the score sheet yet again, joining Jarl-André Storbæk, Adama Diomandé, Gustav Wikheim and Start defender Glenn Andersen who unfortunately scored an own-goal after thirty-eight minutes to put the visitors 4-0 ahead going into the half time break. Strømsgodset have been in fine form this season and are already beginning to pull away from the rest of the field, and if they beat third-place Aalesund when the two sides meet in Drammen on Friday evening, they could pull away even further from the main title challengers and fully assert their dominance at the top of the table as we near the season’s midpoint.

Both Aalesund and fourth-place Viking sit on twenty points – one point behind Rosenborg – after their games this week. Aalesund were beaten 2-0 by Brann on Thursday to surrender their third-place spot to the Bergensers, before they beat second-to-bottom-place Odd by the same scoreline when they hosted the Skien-based side on Monday evening. Viking, on the other hand, extended their unbeaten run to four games thanks to a goalless draw at home to Hønefoss in the week and a 1-0 win away to local rivals Sandnes Ulf in the Rogaland derby on Tuesday.

Brann were unable to capitalise on their victory over Aalesund and were beaten 2-0 by Tromsø on Monday evening to drop down to fifth place, whilst the victory means that Tromsø finish the week in seventh place after struggling Vålerenga bounced back from two defeats in a row to beat them 2-0 at home on Thursday. The Oslo side then went on to pick up a point away to Sarpsborg 08 on Tuesday evening, allowing last year’s Adeccoligaen runners-up to come back from behind three times, including a last-minute equaliser by French defender Jérémy Berthod, to draw 3-3.

Tromsø are now just one point behind sixth-place Haugesund after their three-game unbeaten run was ended by Sogndal when they were beaten 1-0 by them, thanks to a sixty-ninth minute Malick Mane penalty, and the victory also leaves Sogndal just one point behind Tromsø.

In the bottom half of the table, Hønefoss capitalised on their goalless draw with Viking and beat Lillestrøm 1-0. Mats Kaland scored the game’s only goal to send the former up to tenth place and the latter down to twelfth. Lillestrøm, who were only able to draw 2-2 with fourteenth-place Sandnes Ulf during the week, are now without a win in their last five league games and are slipping further towards the relegation zone as the weeks go on; they now sit equal on points with thirteenth-place Start, who beat fifteenth-place Odd 1-0 on Thursday, and only two points ahead of Sandnes Ulf who occupy the relegation play-off spot.

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Sweden

Helsingborg record their sixth consecutive win, whilst Djurgården are victorious yet again

After finally winning their first game of the season last weekend against Malmö FF, bottom-of-the-table Djurgården won for the second time when they beat second-to-bottom-place side Halmstad 1-0 at home. The game was new manager Per-Mathias Høgmo’s (who has previously been in charge of Tromsø and Rosenborg back in his native Norway) first in charge after taking over from Magnus Pehrsson who resigned following threats from supporters after their dreadful start to the season, and the victory sees his new side move equal on points with Halmstad, as well as now being only one point behind fourteenth-place Syrianska FC, thirteenth-place Gefle, and twelfth-place Öster.

Syrianska FC ended Round 8 in the relegation zone but ended Round 9 in the relegation play-off spot thanks to a 1-1 draw with eleventh-place Brommapojkarna. Alexander Michel put the former side ahead after twenty-seven minutes before Andreas Haddad (pictured above) equalised for Brommapojkarna with little over quarter of an hour left to play.

Gefle also drew, moving them up from fourteenth place to thirteenth place, thanks to their clash away to Häcken on Sunday ending 2-2. After winning two of their first four games this season, Gefle have failed to win in their last five, losing three – including heavy defeats to both Helsingborg and Brommapojkarna – and drawing two in the process.

As for Öster, they joined Halmstad and Åtvidaberg in being the only sides in the bottom half of the table who were unable to pick up at least a point this weekend due to their 3-2 loss at home to AIK. The win moves AIK into the top half of the table to eighth place, sandwiched between seventh-place Norrköping and ninth-place Åtvidaberg after the latter lost 2-1 against the former when they met at Norrköpings Idrottspark on Sunday.

In the top half of the table, Helsingborg remain top of Allsvenskan and in fine form after they won for the sixth consecutive game. This weekend, two first-half goals from David Accam helped them to beat Elfsborg 2-1 in front of just over 10,000 fans at home, and ended the reigning champions’ unbeaten run to send them down to fourth place.

Elfsborg are now equal on points with both third-place Mjällby and fifth-place Malmö FF after the two sides drew 2-2 with one another when they met on Friday evening in Hällevik. Thanks to goals from Craig Henderson and Marcus Ekenberg that cancelled out Simon Kroon’s sixtieth-minute goal, the home side were heading for a second consecutive win but Magnus Eriksson scored from the spot with six minutes left to play to steal a point for Malmö FF. After winning four of their five opening games this season, Malmö FF are now without a win in their last four games, although they’ve only lost once so far this campaign and remain firmly involved in the battle at the top of the table.

Sitting ahead of Mjällby, Elfsborg and Malmö FF are IFK Göteborg after they picked up their second victory in a row when they beat sixth-place Kalmar 2-0 to record the weekend’s biggest win in a round of football that’s been characterised by close encounters. Tobias Hysén scored both goals to keep the thirteen times Allsvenskan winners within two points of Helsingborg.

Ben Cullimore

Follow Ben on Twitter by clicking his name above or alternatively@thenorsenetwork

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