SCANDINAVIA: DENMARK, NORWAY AND SWEDEN WEEKLY REVIEW

Denmark

København finally pick up their first point of the season, whilst Midtjylland make it four wins out of four games.

Reigning champions København are still without a win after their opening four games of the new season, but they were at least able to secure their first point of the campaign when they drew with fellow strugglers Nordsjælland on Sunday afternoon. The club from the capital went ahead through Rúrik Gíslason’s first league goal for them after eighteen minutes, but Nordsjælland were back on level terms sixteen minutes later when Martin Vingaard successfully converted from the penalty spot. København would also rely on a penalty to score, and they were back in front eighteen minutes into the second half when Thomas Kristensen – a former Nordsjælland player – beat goalkeeper Martin Hansen from twelve yards out. However, with it looking like the game would be ending in a København win, Morten Nordstrand equalised for Nordsjælland one last time with a spectacular overhead kick from deep inside the penalty area.

Both sides remain in the relegation zone at the end of the weekend, with Nordsjælland still equal on points with Brøndby, after the latter, who are also without a win so far this season, drew 2-2 with newly-promoted Viborg. They, too, were saved from defeat at the last minute, with their saviour coming in the form of Simon Makienok, who chested the ball down before turning and firing into the bottom corner of the net with his left foot with mere moments left to play. For Viborg, the draw is their third of the season, and they sit one point ahead of Brøndby in ninth place.

Two points ahead of them sit SønderjyskE, fellow promoted side Vestsjælland, and Randers. SønderjyskE and Vestsjælland drew 0-0 against one another when they met in Haderslev on Monday evening, whilst Randers were beaten 3-1 by a Midtjylland side that look unstoppable, with this weekend’s win extending their 100% record so far this season. Sylvester Igboun headed the league leaders into the lead after only four minutes, but Randers equalised half-an-hour later through a strike inside the penalty area from Ronnie Schwarz. However, Midtjylland were ahead once again when Morten Rasmussen rose high to chest the ball into the back of the net after fifty-seven minutes, and Danny Olsen wrapped up the win with three minutes left to play with a side-footed shot from close range that left goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen rooted to the spot in the Randers goalmouth.

The most impressive win of the weekend certainly goes to Esbjerg, however, after they mercilessly beat AGF 5-1 at home on Saturday afternoon. Not only was the game notable for treating the 8,000 fans inside Blue Water Arena to six goals, but it was also notable for referee Kenn Hansen’s refusal to allow AGF to play in their dark blue away kit, as he argued that it was too similar to the blue and white stripes of Esbjerg’s home shirt. With no other option, Hansen ordered the visitors to borrow the away kit of their opponents, which was no doubt used as an excuse by some to explain how AGF were beaten so heavily. Despite the scoreline hinting that it was always plain sailing for the hosts, they didn’t go ahead until Mick van Buren headed in on the stroke of half-time, and AGF were right back in the game when they equalised through a twenty-yard pile-driver from Kasper Povlsen ten minutes after the restart. But, Esbjerg were ahead again two minutes later when poor defending allowed Hans Andreasen to put the ball into the back of the AGF net with his shin, and from then onwards the hosts completely dominated the game, with van Buren scoring his second goal (and his fourth since joining the club before the start of the season) ten minutes later, before Martin Braithwaite made it 4-1 just eight minutes after that, and Peter Ankersen completed an emphatic victory with a superb tight-angled volley that wasn’t too dissimilar to Marco van Basten’s famous strike against the USSR in Euro ‘88.

Meanwhile, Aalborg and Odense only managed a goalless draw in their game on Sunday afternoon at Nordjyske Arena, despite a plethora of chances for both sides. Alongside Midtjylland, Odense are one of only two sides yet to lose this season, and they end Round 4 in fourth place with three draws and a win, one point behind third-place Aalborg who have won twice, lost once, and drawn once.

Norway

Start climb out of the relegation zone with their first win since May, whilst Tromsø’s descent continues.

20130813 - Ola Kamara

The gap between leaders Rosenborg and second-place Strømsgodset remains just two points after the two sides drew 2-2 when they met in Drammen on Sunday afternoon. The visitors went ahead after half-an-hour through Tore Reginiussen, but Ola Kamara equalised for Strømsgodset just two minutes later, and Øyvind Storflor put the hosts ahead themselves nine minutes into the second half when he scored for the second consecutive league game. However, Rosenborg fought back and John Chibuike salvaged a point for them with little under 20 minutes left to play to keep them in pole position and in full control going into the final third of the season.

Strømsgodset’s dropping of points meant that Aalesund would be able to close the gap between them to five points if they were victorious at home to Sarpsborg 08. And that’s exactly what they did, comfortably beating the struggling side 3-1, thanks to a first-half goal from Abderrazak Hamdallah, and second-half goals from Jo Nymo Matland and Fredrik Ulvestad.

The win also furthered the gap between them and fourth-place Viking to three points, after the latter were held to a draw for the second week in a row when they drew 1-1 away to seventh-place Odd on Saturday. Benjamin Sulimani, who has now scored in each of his first three games for the club, put Viking ahead shortly after the hour mark, but Fredrik Semb Berge equalised in the last minute to help Odd avoid only their second defeat in their last eight league games after embarking on a fantastic midseason turnaround that has seen them slowly but surely climb into the top half of the table.

Viking now sit just one point ahead of Haugesund, who won for the second week in a row this weekend when they beat Hønefoss 1-0, thanks to a 12th-minute goal from Danish striker Christian Gytkjær, his first for almost three months.

Brann’s descent towards the middle of the table continued this weekend when their winless streak was extended to five games, thanks to a 1-1 draw against Lillestrøm in the opening game of the round on Friday evening. The game almost ended in a defeat for the Bergensers, as the visitors went into the final 10 minutes 1-0 up after Bjorn Helge Riise had put them ahead four minutes before half time, but Amin Askar equalised with eight minutes left to play to save them from their third straight defeat and their ninth of the season.

At the bottom of the table, Start, who started the weekend bottom of the table, climbed out of the relegation zone after winning only their fourth league game of the season, and their first since the middle of May. They did so comfortably, and against the most unlikely of opponents, beating eighth-place Vålerenga 3-1 to condemn them to their first league defeat since their 2-1 loss to Rosenborg at the end of May.

Start now sit in the relegation play-off spot in 14th place, one point ahead of Sarpsborg 08, who drop into the relegation zone as a result of Start’s victory, and two points ahead of Hønefoss, who are now bottom of the table after suffering a fourth straight defeat and failing to win for the eighth consecutive league game. As for Sarpsborg 08, this weekend’s 3-1 loss to Aalesund was their sixth defeat in a row, and last season’s Adeccoligaen runners-up have now only managed to win once in their last 11 games, picking up just four points in the process. They face a home clash against a Sogndal side that haven’t won since the end of June next weekend, and victory there is vital if they are to avoid slipping further towards the bottom of the table, and further towards life back in the second tier.

Tromsø are another side who are in trouble, and they are now just three points clear of the relegation play-off spot after they were beaten 2-1 away from home by Sandnes Ulf, thanks to a last-minute winning goal from Fredrik Torsteinbø. The win moves Sandnes Ulf, whose impressive recent turnaround has seen them win four times in their last five games, one place above and one point ahead of last season’s fourth-place finishers, who now haven’t won in the league since the end of June.

Sandnes Ulf are also now just one point behind 11th-place Sogndal, who lost an early 1-0 lead and ended up being beaten 2-1 by Molde on Saturday afternoon, thanks to two goals in three minutes from Joona Toivio and Tommy Høiland, with the latter’s goal being his first for the club since his move from Sandnes Ulf last month. Molde are now in ninth place after winning for the second week in a row, and trail next weekend’s opponents Odd by just one point.

Sweden

Malmö FF move equal on points with leaders Helsingborg, and Syrianska FC fall even further behind the rest of the pack.

The top of the Allsvenskan table is looking even closer this weekend after a round of results that left all of the top six sides equal on points with their nearest rivals.

League leaders Helsingborg are now equal on points with second-place Malmö FF after the latter overcame a tough game against third-place AIK, who were previously unbeaten in their last ten league games, with seven of those, including their last four in a row, ending in victories, to win 1-0, thanks to a goal one minute into stoppage time at the end of the first half from Markus Halsti. Helsingborg, meanwhile, were only able to manage a goalless draw at home to eighth-place Norrköping, and are now without a win in their last two games.

As for AIK, they are now equal on points with fourth-place IFK Göteborg after the latter comfortably beat bottom-of-the-table Syrianska FC 2-0, thanks to goals in either half from Tobias Hysén and Pontus Farnerud.

Meanwhile, sixth-place Kalmar lost 1-0 to Elfsborg when the two sides met at Borås Arena on Saturday afternoon, allowing the reigning champions to move above them – albeit equal on points – to fifth. The win was Elfsborg’s first in the league since the end of June, after going four games without a victory, whilst the defeat was Kalmar’s first since the end of May, after embarking on a fantastic run that saw them avoid defeat for seven straight league games.

At the bottom of the table, Syrianska FC are now seven points behind nearest rivals Halmstad, who beat seventh-place Åtvidaberg 1-0 this weekend for only their third victory all season. The two sides above them, Brommapojkarna and Öster, were also victorious, with the former winning comfortably beating Djurgården 3-0 to extending their unbeaten run to four games, and the latter extended their unbeaten run to three games with a 2-0 win against a Häcken side that have now lost their last five league games in a row.

Only three points now separate Häcken from the dreaded drop zone ahead of their game away to Djurgården next weekend, who sit just one point behind them in twelfth place. As for Öster and Brommapojkarna, the two sides sit equal on points with eighteen each, and the latter face a tough clash against Norrköping (who were the first side they beat this season) next weekend, whilst Öster will fancy their chances against Syrianska FC, who haven’t won since the end of April after enduring a torrid time this season.

Meanwhile, near the middle of the table, Gefle beat Mjällby 2-1 to condemn them to their third consecutive game without a win. The victory also moves Gefle above struggling Häcken to tenth place, four points behind their opponents this weekend.

Ben Cullimore

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

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