SCANDINAVIA: NORWAY AND SWEDEN WEEKLY REVIEW

Norway

Strømsgodset enter the summer break in pole position, whilst Molde finally lift themselves off the bottom of the table

This weekend saw the last round of Tippeligaen being played before the annual summer break, and there was movement at both ends of the table, as well as the solidifying of important positions in preparation for each side’s return to action for the second half of the season at the end of June.

Daniel Chukwu Chima puts Molde ahead

Molde capitalised on their impressive goalless draw with Rosenborg – despite going a man down after 20 minutes – last round and picked up their second win of the campaign to finally move them off the bottom of the table. Their victory came in emphatic fashion on Saturday afternoon and showcased glimpses of the Molde of old as they hammered Hønefoss 4-0 at home. Daniel Chukwu Chima put them ahead after only twelve minutes and the hosts carried the one goal advantage into the half time break, before Magnus Wolff Eikrem doubled their lead six minutes after the restart with a wonderful long-range effort. Zlatko Tripić then made it 3-0 just four minutes later and Chima wrapped up a comfortable victory with his second goal of the game five minutes after that.

The reigning champions are now equal on points with Sandnes Ulf but move ahead of them and condemn them to last place thanks to the latter side’s 3-0 defeat away to Odd. Before this weekend, the visitors were without a win in their last six games and any hopes of ending that poor run were hampered when Serbian defender Miloš Mihajlov received a red card after only twenty-two minutes when he pulled down Odd striker Adem Güven in the penalty area to send them down to ten men with three-quarters of the game left to play. Sean McDermott saved Morten Fevang’s penalty but the veteran was able to calmly slot away his follow-up effort to put Odd 1-0 ahead. The scoreline stayed that way until eleven minutes into the second half when Håvard Storbæk curled the ball past McDermott to make it 2-0, and Niklas Gunnarsson made it 3-0 nine minutes later when he converted a corner with his shoulder on the goal line. The win moves Odd out of the relegation zone and up to the relegation play-off spot in fourteenth place, but they’re just one point ahead of both Molde and Sandnes Ulf.

Ahead of Odd, eleventh-place Hønefoss, twelfth-place Vålerenga and thirteenth-place Start are all tied on thirteen points after none of them were victorious this weekend. Start were the only one of the three sides who picked up a point thanks to their 1-1 draw with eighth-place Sogndal on Sunday afternoon, but their ability to only win one of their last five league games leaves them dangerously close to the relegation zone, especially seeing as Molde are finally finding their form.

Vålerenga lost their seventh league game of the season (the joint most of any of the Tippeligaen sides, with Odd also being defeated seven times so far in 2013) when they were beaten 2-1 by second-place Rosenborg on Friday evening. After a goalless first half, Tore Reginiussen headed Rosenborg into the lead in the sixty-fifth minute, before Jonas Svensson fired in a long range effort which beat Gudmund Kongshavn in the Vålerenga goal to put them 2-0 ahead with just six minutes left to play. Jan Lecjaks pulled one back for the Oslo side three minutes later with an equally as good goal from outside the box but it was too little, too late as Rosenborg held on to keep their second-place spot safe and out of the hands of fast-approaching Viking.

Viking kept the gap between them and Rosenborg to only one point and extended their unbeaten run to five games when they beat seventh-place Tromsø 2-1 on Sunday. They only just managed to win in the last minute, however, as Yann-Erik de Lanlay’s twenty-fifth-minute opener was cancelled out by Ruben Yttergård Jenssen’s twenty-five-yard strike after seventy-seven minutes, and the game looked to be heading for a 1-1 draw as it drew to a close. But, Trond Olsen was on hand to snatch a last-minute winner when Tromsø goalkeeper Marcus Sahlman fumbled a shot from de Lanlay into the path of Olsen, who poked away his fifth goal of the season to send Viking into the summer break in a bronze medal winning position.

Brann moved up to fourth in the table, two points behind Viking, when they beat Sarpsborg 08 3-1 on Sunday to extend their winning streak at home to seven games. Martin Pusic opened the scoring after twenty minutes with his first goal for Brann since his move from Fredrikstad at the start of the year, and eighteen-year-old Bård Finne then doubled their lead on the stroke of half time with his second goal of the season. Martin Wiig pulled one back for Sarpsborg 08 midway through the second half but Zsolt Korcsmár reestablished Brann’s two-goal lead and completed the win when he scored with nine minutes left to play.

Sarpsborg 08, who started the season in such promising fashion, are now without a win in their last four league games and drop to tenth place after Lillestrøm ended their run of five games without a win with a 3-0 victory at home to sixth-place Haugesund. Lillestrøm started quickly and were 1-0 up after only three minutes thanks to a goal from Bjorn Helge Riise, but they weren’t able to double their lead until just after the hour mark when Fredrik Gulbrandsen scored his first goal of the season with a low strike from the edge of the penalty area. Erik Knudtzon then wrapped up a comfortable win when he weaved his way through the Haugesund defence before firing past goalkeeper Per Morten Kristiansen with two minutes left on the clock. Haugesund have now lost their last two consecutive league games and sit just two points ahead of Lillestrøm in sixth-place, as well as now only leading both seventh-place Tromsø and eighth-place Sogndal by one point.

Leaders Strømsgodset remain five points ahead of Rosenborg at the top of the table after they beat an injury-stricken Aalesund 2-1 on Friday evening to extend their winning streak to four games. Michael Barrantes put Aalesund ahead after thirteen minutes but their lead would be brief as Strømsgodset fought back immediately and equalised through Adama Diomandé six minutes later. The league leaders then went on the front foot and veteran striker Péter Kovács, who had replaced Diomandé when the youngster had to leave the field two minutes after scoring due to an injury he picked up as a result of the goal, headed them into the lead with two minutes left to play in the first half. Despite Strømsgodset’s dominance in the first period, Aalesund came out ahead in the second half and exerted all of their offensive might, taking advantage of a tiring opposition in what Strømsgodset manager Ronny Deila described as “the worst second half I’ve been in in my entire life”. However, Aalesund couldn’t find an equaliser, with a combination of last-ditch defending and a plethora of goal line clearances allowing Strømsgodset to narrowly hold on to enter the break in pole position after an impressive first half of the season.

Sweden

Djurgården go unbeaten in three games, whilst Elfsborg hand Brommapojkarna the heaviest Allsvenskan defeat of the season

Djurgården’s impressive turnaround continued this week, and, despite still sitting bottom of the Allsvenskan table, they are now unbeaten in their last three games after they drew 1-1 with tenth-place AIK on Wednesday evening. The latter went ahead first after only five minutes through Kennedy Igboananike, but Amadou Jawo – the club’s top goalscorer in the league so far this season, despite scoring only three goals – equalised nine minutes into the second half to earn his side a very valuable point.

Thanks to their impressive recent results, Djurgården are now equal on points with fifteenth-place Syrianska FC, fourteenth-place Öster, and thirteenth-place Halmstad after only one of these sides – the latter – picked up any points this week. Halmstad did so at home to Norrköping, coming from behind in the latter part of the second half to draw 1-1.

Hacken’s Moestafa El Kabir is the Swedish league top scorer

As for Syrianska FC, ninth-place Häcken extended their winless streak to four games when they beat them in Södertälje on Thursday. All three goals came in the second half, with Martin Ericsson putting Häcken 1-0 up just after the hour mark from the penalty spot with his second goal in as many games, before Moestafa El Kabir – the league’s top goalscorer so far this season – and Nasiru Mohammed scored within three minutes of one another in the final ten minutes of the game to win 3-0.

Meanwhile, Öster lost 3-1 away from home to Kalmar and have now been defeated in their last six games in a row as they slip ever closer to the bottom of the table. Pape Alioune Diouf and seventeen-year-old Melker Hallberg gave Kalmar a 2-0 half time lead, before Dennis Velić pulled one back for Öster seven minutes after the restart. However, the visitors were unable to capitalise on the goal and the win was wrapped up in the last moments of the game thanks to Costa Rican substitute Jonathan McDonald’s second goal of the season.

The heaviest defeat of the week was handed to twelfth-place Brommapojkarna (sitting just one point ahead of Halmstad, Öster, Syrianska FC and Djurgården), who were thrashed 6-0 by reigning champions Elfsborg in front of just under 7,700 in Borås. Three goals were scored in either half, with Johan Larsson putting the hosts ahead after twenty-four minutes, before Mohamed Bangura scored a double in fifteen minutes. The onslaught continued eighteen minutes into the second half when Tom Söderberg hit the back of the net, and Henning Hauger made it 5-0 just three minutes later, before Lasse Nilsson completed a mammoth win with one final goal in the eighty-seventh minute. With only one defeat this season, Elfsborg now sit in third place with nineteen points, three points ahead of fourth-place Malmö FF, fifth-place Kalmar and sixth-place Mjällby, although they’ve played one more game than Malmö FF, as they, along with leaders Helsingborg, weren’t in action this week.

Åtvidaberg were victorious for the third time in their last four league games when they beat Mjällby 3-0 on Thursday to move up to seventh place, equal on points with Norrköping and Häcken behind them and two points behind Mjällby, Kalmar and Malmö FF. Viktor Prodell and Imad Zatara both scored in the first half to give Åtvidaberg a 2-0 lead at the break, and the latter doubled his tally and extended his side’s lead twelve minutes into the second half with what would prove to be the game’s final goal.

IFK Göteborg sit two points ahead of Elfsborg after they were only able to draw 1-1 with eleventh-place Gefle, who have now failed to win in their last seven league games. Only one point separates eleventh-place Gefle and bottom-of-the-table Djurgården at the end of the opening third of the season, and the inability of any of the bottom six sides to win this week means that four points now separate Gefle and the nearest side above them, AIK. Whilst every side bar Malmö FF in the top ten have won at least two of their last five league games, Djurgården – who, it can be argued, are now making up lost ground after their abysmal start to the season – are the only side in the bottom six to win more than one of their last five. If this trend continue, we could see the bottom six almost completely break away from the rest of the table and start battling to avoid relegation amongst themselves as soon as the season’s midpoint.

Ben Cullimore

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

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