SCANDINAVIA: DENMARK, NORWAY AND SWEDEN WEEKLY REVIEW

Denmark

København’s crisis continues, whilst Midtjylland lead the way with three wins out of three games

After winning the Superliga in such convincing fashion last season, it certainly is a shock to see København struggling at the bottom of the table without a single point from their opening three games of the new campaign. This is particularly worrying for the reigning champions, as no side has gone on to finish in the top six after losing their first three games, let alone win the title.

København’s latest defeat came against Randers in their first home game of the season on Sunday afternoon. After going ahead after twenty-four minutes through a Thomas Delaney header, poor defending from the hosts allowed Jonas Borring to break away down the left wing and square the ball to Ronnie Schwartz in front of goal to equalise for Randers twelve minutes later. The scoreline remained at 1-1 until the seventy-fifth minute when Borring got himself on the score sheet with a bullet header from twelve yards out, and Nicolai Brock-Madsen completed the win when he scored (also with his head) five minutes later to make it 3-1 to last season’s third-place finishers.

The only slight solace for København is that they are not entirely alone in their misery, as Nordsjælland, who finished as runners-up to the club from the capital last season, also find themselves languishing near the bottom of the table after only managing to pick up one point so far. This week saw them lose 2-1 away to AGF, thanks to two late goals from Osarna Akharraz and Casper Sloth. Nordsjælland were awarded a penalty in stoppage time after a handball from substitute Davit Devdariani, which captain Nicolai Stockholm duly converted, but it would prove to be of little consequence as AGF held on for their second consecutive victory.

Brøndby, who struggled last season and finished just outside the relegation zone in ninth place, have also had a poor start to the new campaign, and they were beaten for the second time in as many weeks this weekend when they faced Esbjerg on Sunday evening. A second-half brace in just four minutes from youngster Jesper Rasmussen was enough for Esbjerg to secure their second win of the season, whilst the defeat leaves Brøndby near the foot of the table with just one point.

At the top of the table are Midtjylland, who are the only side to have won all three of their opening games. They won this weekend’s clash against SønderjyskE 2-1, but had to come from behind after going 1-0 down ten minutes into the second half when Nicolaj Madsen fired in from close range for his third goal of the season, and his third goal in as many games. Sylvester Igboun had a goal disallowed shortly after, but the Nigerian striker finally scored Midtjylland’s equaliser with nine minutes left to play when he poked the ball past SønderjyskE goalkeeper Marin Skender from six yards out, and former Celtic player Morten Rasmussen headed in from a similar distance seven minutes later to steal another win for the league leaders.

Behind Midtjylland with six points each are Esbjerg, Aalborg, and AGF, with Aalborg being the only one of the three to lose this weekend when they were defeated 2-1 by newly promoted Vestsjælland on Monday evening. Jean-Claude Bozga put Vestsjælland ahead after only eight minutes when he rose high above the Aalborg defence to head the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net, and Dennis Sørensen doubled their lead exactly an hour later with a header at the other end of the pitch. Vestsjælland defender Oliver Lund unfortunately put the ball into the back of his own net on the stroke of full time when he stuck out a foot in an attempt to clear an Aalborg corner, but it wouldn’t prove too costly as his side went on to record their first ever Superliga win in their history.

Fellow promoted side Viborg weren’t so lucky, however, as they were beaten 4-2 by Odense in a thrilling game at TRE-FOR Park on Sunday. Two goals in as many minutes from Bashkim Kadrii put the hosts 2-0 up after half-an-hour, before Mikkel Rask pulled a goal back for Viborg shortly before half time, but Emil Larsen reestablished Odense’s two goal lead with a great solo effort just before the hour mark. Rasmus Falk then extended their lead to 4-1 thirteen minutes later, and Thomas Dalgaard, last season’s top goalscorer in the 1st Division, scored a consolation goal for Viborg, and his first of the season, with three minutes left to play. The defeat leaves the reigning 1st Division champions in ninth place with two points, whilst Odense remain unbeaten and move up to fifth place with five points after winning their first game of the season.

Norway

Rosenborg and Strømsgodset pull further away at the top, whilst Tromsø find themselves in trouble near the bottom

The battle between Rosenborg and Strømsgodset rages on at the top of the Tippeligaen table after both sides were victorious again this weekend. For Rosenborg, it was their fourth consecutive win, extending their unbeaten run in the league to twelve games, whilst Strømsgodset won for the second time after two defeats on the bounce to keep the pressure firmly on the league leaders.

Rosenborg’s win came at home to ninth-place Sogndal on Sunday afternoon, with goals in either half from Tore Reginiussen (a fantastic long-range shot after only seven minutes) and Nicki Bille Nielsen (the Danes’ second in as many weeks and his seventh of the season) giving the hosts a 2-0 win and condemning the visitors to their fifth consecutive game without victory.

As for Strømsgodset, they put four goals past struggling Sarpsborg 08 earlier in the day to win 4-2 at Sarpsborg Stadion. They were ahead after only three minutes through Simen Brenne, before Tom Erik Breive equalised for the hosts thirty minutes later from an indirect free kick after Strømsgodset goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey was adjudged to have handled a back-pass. With the scores level heading towards the break, Adama Diomandé fired in to put the visitors 2-1 ahead with his sixth goal of the season on the stroke of half time. Sarpsborg 08 then equalised again ten minutes into the second half through recently signed Nigerian striker Aaron Samuel, but the title chasers were back ahead just a minute later thanks to Jarl-André Storbæk, and young substitute Bismark Adjei-Boateng wrapped up the win with seven minutes of the game remaining.

The gap between second and third place is now seven points after Aalesund regained third spot thanks to a 5-2 thrashing of Hønefoss. Goals from Michael Barrantes, Jo Nymo Matland, Abderrazak Hamdallah, and Leke James gave them a 4-0 lead after only thirty-five minutes, and, despite two second half goals from Aleksander Solli, Hønefoss, who have only won once in their last ten league games, were unable to initiate a comeback, and Peter Orry Larsen completed an emphatic win for Aalesund with a header from a Matland free kick deep into injury time.

Aalesund’s win knocks Viking down to fourth place after they drew for the fourth time in their last five games when they met Lillestrøm on Saturday. Viking had to fight hard for the point, too, after goals from Erling Knudtzon and Pálmi Pálmason put Lillestrøm ahead after fifty minutes, but Benjamin Sulimani (who has now scored two goals in his first two games for the club) and Patrik Ingelsten both scored within quarter-of-an-hour of one another soon after to rescue an important draw which keeps Viking just one point behind Aalesund.

At the other end of the table, the bottom four remains the same, with Start still occupying bottom spot after they were beaten 1-0 at home by eighth-place Odd, thanks to twenty-year-old Fredrik Jensen’s first senior goal for the club thirty-five minutes into the game. With just one win in their last fourteen league games, and only three wins all year, things aren’t looking positive for Start as we near the final third of the season.

Hønefoss remain one point ahead of them in fifteenth place, whilst Sarpsborg 08 are a further point ahead of them in the relegation play-off spot in fourteenth, and Sandnes Ulf end the weekend two points in front of Sarpsborg 08 in thirteenth. Sandnes Ulf were brought back down to earth after three fantastic consecutive wins when they were beaten 3-1 by Haugesund on Sunday, despite going ahead after only three minutes through Fredrik Torsteinbø. Brazilian striker Daniel Bamberg equalised for Haugesund just four minutes later, and Dušan Cvetinović – recently signed from Swiss Challenge League side Vaduz – put them ahead on the half-hour mark with his first goal for the club. Any chance of a Sandnes Ulf comeback was hindered when Fredrik Furebotn was shown a straight red card just before half time for a reckless challenge on Cvetinović, and Haugesund were able to take advantage of the one-man difference and wrap up the win with little under quarter-of-an-hour left to play when David Myrestam fired the ball past Sandnes Ulf goalkeeper Sean McDermott for his first goal of the season, and his first goal since he scored against Sandnes Ulf in September last year.

After losing for the first time since the middle of May last weekend, Molde moved back above Sandnes Ulf – as well as Tromsø – and into eleventh place this week when they beat Brann 2-0 at home at Aker Stadion. Their task was made slightly easier when Macedonian defender Daniel Mojsov was sent off only fourteen minutes into the game after receiving two yellow cards in just ten minutes, and this allowed Jo Inge Berget to put the hosts 1-0 up twenty-two minutes later with a thumping effort from just inside the penalty area. Despite Brann’s best efforts, Molde went 2-0 ahead and effectively killed off the game after seventy-four minutes when Fredrik Gulbrandsen fired the ball through the legs of Brann goalkeeper Piotr Leciejewski. The win means that Molde are now just one point behind Lillestrøm, and just two points behind Sogndal ahead of their clash next weekend, whilst the defeat leaves Brann five points ahead in sixth place and without a win in their last four league games.

Seventh-place Vålerenga, who now trail Brann by only one point, extended their unbeaten run in the league to six games when they drew 2-2 with Tromsø at Alfheim Stadion on Sunday. After going 2-0 up after only half-an-hour through Mohammed Fellah and Kristofer Hæstad, Vålerenga, who had won their last two league games before this weekend, really should have gone on to put the game to bed and wrap up three points that would have seen them overtake Brann and move as high as fifth place, but it wasn’t to be, as a valiant effort from Tromsø saw them rescue only their second point in their last five games, thanks to second-half goals from Remi Johansen and Morten Moldskred. However, the draw means that Tromsø drop to twelfth place after poor performances this season have seen them win only five times, with none of the five coming away from home. They face Sandnes Ulf away from home next Sunday – who sit two points behind them – and a win at Sandnes Idrettspark is vital if they are to avoid slipping any further towards the relegation zone.

Sweden

Malmö FF and AIK put more pressure on leaders Helsingborg, whilst Halmstad drop into the relegation zone

Just two points now separate Helsingborg and both second-place Malmö FF and third-place AIK after the league leaders were beaten for only the third time this season on Monday evening. Their defeat came away from home to Djurgården, who, despite losing their last two consecutive league games, are still firmly involved in a mid-season turnaround after a dreadful start to the year. Arnór Smárason gave the visitors the lead after twenty-two minutes with a fantastic long-range strike, but a goal on the stroke of half time from eighteen-year-old Ghanaian striker Godsway Donyoh (his first for the club since joining on loan from Manchester City) and another shortly before the hour mark from Amadou Jawo was enough for Djurgården to win for only the fifth time this season. The win moves them up to eleventh place, nestled between tenth-place Häcken and twelfth-place Gefle.

As for Helsingborg, the defeat meant that Malmö FF and AIK’s victories on Sunday and Saturday, respectively, leave them only two points in front of the two fast-approaching title-chasers. Malmö FF’s win came away from home to Halmstad, and proved to be comfortable enough, with a twelfth-minute goal from Magnus Eriksson and a successful penalty from Jiloan Hamad ten minutes later giving them a 2-0 lead after only twenty-two minutes. Richard Magyar – who had given away the penalty in the first half when he wrestled Eriksson to the ground – pulled one back for Halmstad shortly before half time, but Tukelo Rantie rounded goalkeeper Stojan Lukić and slotted the ball into the corner of the net midway through the second half to wrap up all three points for Malmö FF.

Meanwhile, AIK had a slightly trickier task at home to Elfsborg, but successfully beat the sixth-place side 2-1 to extend their unbeaten run to ten league games. Celso Borges put them ahead after eighteen minutes with a header from a Martin Kayongo-Mutumba corner, and they stayed in front until the seventy-first minute when twenty-year-old substitute Simon Hedlund equalised for Elfsborg with his first senior goal for the club. Elfsborg’s joy would be short-lived, however, as Martin Lorentzson put AIK back in the lead just three minutes later with what would prove to be the winning goal, condemning the reigning champions to their fourth consecutive league game without a win ahead of a tough clash against fifth-place Kalmar next weekend. For AIK, the game was not only special because of the win but was also special because it marked the final appearance of club legend Daniel Tjernström, who came on as a substitute with quarter-of-an-hour left to play for the final time in an AIK shirt after being with the club since 1999.

It was Elfsborg’s next opponents Kalmar who knocked them down to sixth place when they beat bottom-of-the-table Syrianska FC 1-0 on Saturday afternoon. The latter were close to avoiding defeat for the second consecutive game as full time approached with the scoreline still goalless (despite Syrianska FC going down to ten men with twenty-five minutes left to play when Alex was shown a second yellow card), but any hopes of salvaging a vital point were ruined by sixteen-year-old Filip Sachpekidis when the youngster pounced on goalkeeper Dwayne Miller’s spilling of a Jonathan McDonald long-range effort and fired the ball into the roof of the net from close range to inflict further misery on the struggling side.

Syrianska FC are now joined in the relegation zone by Halmstad, who dropped into the bottom two as a result of Öster and Brommapojkarna’s 0-0 draw in Växjö on Saturday. The former are now in thirteenth place, whilst the latter occupy the relegation play-off spot in fourteenth, just one point ahead of Halmstad and five ahead of Syrianska FC.

Twelfth-place Gefle also picked up a point that moves them further away from the drop zone when they held seventh-place Åtvidaberg to a 1-1 draw away from home on Sunday. They were on course for only their fourth win all season – and their second in as many weeks – after Mikael Dahlberg had put them 1-0 up eight minutes into the second half, but an eighty-sixth-minute penalty from Daniel Sjölund rescued a point for Åtvidaberg and forced Gefle into their third draw in their last five games.

Åtvidaberg are now equal on points with Elfsborg, and move three points clear of eighth-place Mjällby, who were beaten 3-2 by Norrköping. Robin Strömberg put Mjällby ahead twenty-three minutes into the first half, but goals either side of half time from Lars Krogh Gerson and Martin Smedberg-Dalence gave them a 2-1 lead with forty minutes of the second half left to play. Isaac Thelin then extended their lead to 3-1 with eight minutes of the game remaining, and, despite Marcus Ekenberg pulling one back for them with a minute left, Mjällby were unable to muster up a comeback, and Norrköping held on to win their second consecutive league game and extend their unbeaten run to four games. The win also moves them equal on points with Mjällby, and still with a game in hand over them.

Meanwhile, five points behind Norrköping lie Häcken, who are now without a single point in their last four league games after they were beaten 3-1 by local rivals IFK Göteborg. Häcken were ahead after only three minutes through Moestafa El Kabir, but two goals in a minute from Tobias Hysén and Robin Söder near the end of the first half gave IFK Göteborg a 2-1 advantage heading into the break. Poor defending allowed Jakob Johansson to make it 3-1 with twenty minutes remaining, and from then onwards IFK Göteborg looked to be in full control. The win keeps them one point ahead of Kalmar and three points behind AIK as things remain as fierce as ever at the top of the table.

 

Ben Cullimore

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

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