SCANDINAVIA: DENMARK, NORWAY AND SWEDEN WEEKLY REVIEW

Denmark

Midtjylland’s 100% record remains intact, whilst reigning champions København are still without a win.

After securing their first point of the season last weekend when they drew 2-2 with fellow strugglers Nordsjælland, reigning champions København drew again this week when they hosted AGF on Sunday evening. Poor defending allowed Casper Sloth to fire the visitors into the lead after seventeen minutes, but Nicolai Jørgensen equalised for København on the stroke of half time after a comical error from AGF goalkeeper Steffen Rasmussen allowed Jørgensen to dribble the ball past him with ease before tapping the ball into an empty net from close range. Despite both sides going close to scoring on several occasions after the restart, neither could find the back of the net, and 1-1 was how the game ended.

København remain in the relegation zone after the opening five games of the new season, but the bottom spot that they previously occupied was taken over by cross-city rivals Brøndby, after they suffered their third defeat of the season this weekend against a Midtjylland side that seem to be going from strength to strength as the season progresses. After new signing Kenneth Zohore put Brøndby ahead with twenty-two minutes on the clock, a swinging shot from the edge of the penalty from Sylvester Igboun equalised for the league leaders three minutes later, before Morten Rasmussen put Midtjylland ahead with three minutes of the first half remaining. A further two goals from Rasmussen in quick succession shortly after the hour mark wrapped up his first hat-trick since he put four past Nordsjælland for Brøndby almost four years ago, and put Midtjylland 4-1 up with just under twenty-five minutes of the game still to play. Twenty-year-old Marco Larsen then made it 5-1 ten minutes later after a defensive mix-up gifted him with an open goal to slot the ball into, before eighteen-year-old substitute Andrew Hjulsager scored a goal that would prove to be of little consolation for Brøndby four minutes before full-time.

Brøndby and København are the only two sides yet to win any of their opening five games, after both Nordsjælland and Viborg picked up their first victories of the season on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Nordsjælland, who had only managed to pick up two points from their opening four games before this weekend, beat Aalborg 2-1 at home at Farum Park, thanks to goals in either half from Morten Nordstrand, which cancelled out Kasper Kusk’s twenty-ninth-minute low drive from the edge of the penalty area, whilst Viborg comfortably beat SønderjyskE 3-0 away from home, with all three goals coming from last season’s 1st Division top goalscorer Thomas Dalgaard, with his first being scored after only eight minutes.

At the top of the table, Midtjylland already have a six-point lead over nearest rivals Esbjerg, after the latter lost for the second time this season when Randers struck late to beat them 3-2 at home on Monday evening. Esbjerg were 1-0 up at half-time after Jonas Knudsen had put them ahead after sixteen minutes with a spectacular long-range shot, but Jonas Borring finally equalised for the hosts with little over twenty minutes left to play when he headed in from a Jonas Kamper cross. Esbjerg were back ahead just two minutes later, however, when Mick van Buren – the club’s top goalscorer so far this season with five goals – headed in at the other end, but Randers fought back and equalised through Ronnie Schwartz ten minutes later, and Viktor Lundberg stole all three points for the hosts one minute into injury time when he weaved through the static Esbjerg defence before firing past the outstretched figure of Frederik Rønnow. The victory means that Randers are now just one point behind Esbjerg in third place with eight points after only losing once so far this season.

Alongside Midtjylland, fourth-place Odense are the only other side yet to lose any of their opening five games, although they have only managed to win once. This weekend brought their second consecutive draw (as was the case for their opponents too) when they travelled to Vestsjælland on Sunday afternoon. With only a few moments left to play, it looked as if they were going to hold on for their second victory of the season, after Morten Skoubo had put them ahead after twenty-one minutes, but on the stroke of full-time Vestsjælland salvaged an important point thanks to Rasmus Festersen’s first goal of the season. Odense currently sit one point behind Randers, and equal on points with both fifth-place Aalborg and sixth-place AGF, whilst Vestsjælland are one point behind them in eighth, equal on points with seventh-place Viborg.

Norway

Things remain as close as ever at the top, whilst the crises continue for struggling Sarpsborg 08 and Hønefoss.

For the fourth consecutive week, the gap between league leaders Rosenborg and second-place Strømsgodset remains just two points, but we could have been welcoming a different Tippeligaen leader this weekend if things had gone Strømsgodset’s way on Monday evening. After Rosenborg were held to a goalless draw by Vålerenga in Trondheim on Saturday evening, Strømsgodset had the opportunity to move to the top of the table and one point clear of Rosenborg when they travelled to Åråsen Stadion to take face twelfth-place Lillestrøm two days later. The first-half ended goalless, but Ola Kamara put the visitors ahead after sixty-one minutes with his fifth goal in four games since his return to the club in July on loan from SV Reid. With only a few moments left to play, it looked as if Strømsgodset were going to hold on to take both the victory and top spot from Rosenborg, but an unfortunate own-goal in the ninety-second minute from star defender Lars Christopher Vilsvik rescued a point for Lillestrøm and forced Strømsgodset to stay in second place for yet another week.

Back-to-back draws for both Rosenborg and Strømsgodset has allowed third-place Aalesund to take advantage and close the gap, and they won for the third game in a row this weekend when they beat Tromsø 2-1 away from home. Two goals in quick succession in the first-half from Abderrazak Hamdallah and Leke James gave them a 2-0 lead after only twenty-three minutes, but Remi Johansen pulled a goal back for the hosts with little under quarter-of-an-hour left to play. Despite going down to ten men after new signing Houcine Zidoune was shown a straight red card on his debut for the club with ten minutes left to play, Aalesund held on pick up their eleventh win of the season, closing the gap between themselves and Strømsgodset to three points.

Aalesund also remain three points ahead of fourth-place Viking, who came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at home to Brann. Martin Pusic and Daniel Mojsov both saw their headed efforts hit the back of the net early on to put the visitors ahead after twenty minutes, but Benjamin Sulimani, who has now scored in each of his first four games for Viking, headed in himself six minutes later to pull a goal back for the hosts. The scoreline remained at 2-1 until quarter-of-an-hour into the second-half when Makhtar Thioune’s volleyed shot from the edge of the box beat Brann goalkeeper Piotr Leciejewski to equalise for Viking, and Trond Olsen scored what would prove to be the winning goal – a delightful chip over a fast-approaching Leciejewski – nine minutes later. Viking are now unbeaten in their last seven league games, whilst Brann are without a win in their last six, and sit seven points behind their opponents this weekend, despite only being two places behind.

The two sides are separated by Haugesund, who, like Aalesund, won for the third consecutive game, thanks to their 2-1 victory against fourteenth-place Start on Sunday afternoon. They would require a helping hand (or foot, rather) to go ahead, and Jesper Mathisen did just that when he accidentally put the ball into the back of his own net with five minutes of the first-half left to play. Christian Gytkjær then doubled their lead just two minutes later with his eighth goal of the season, and, despite Jorge Castro pulling a goal back for Start after seventy-six minutes, Haugesund held on to pick up three points that keep them just one point behind Viking.

As for Start, the defeat means that they remain in the relegation play-off spot, one point ahead of second-to-bottom-place Sarpsborg 08 and three points behind struggling Tromsø, after both sides lost this weekend. Sarpsborg 08’s defeat came at home to Sogndal, who scored just once through Sidimane Sagna after thirty-three minutes to win their first game in just under two months, and leave Sarpsborg 08 without a single point in their last seven league games. They face bottom-of-the-table Hønefoss next weekend, who find themselves in a similar crisis, as their 1-0 defeat at home to Sandnes Ulf on Sunday was their fifth consecutive league defeat. If either side want to have any hope of turning their seasons around and making a push for freedom, a win next Sunday evening at AKA Arena is vital.

Sandnes Ulf’s midseason turnaround has seen them climb up to eleventh place, and they are now equal on points with tenth-place Molde after the latter were held to a 1-1 draw by eighth-place Odd on Saturday. Frode Johnsen scored the opener for Odd with three minutes of the first-half remaining, before Jo Inge Berget fired in from the edge of the penalty area nine minutes into the second-half to secure an important point for Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men.

Sweden

Malmö FF claim top spot after a third game without a win for Helsingborg.

Malmö FF are the new leaders of Allsvenskan after they beat Kalmar this weekend to overtake and move three points clear of Helsingborg at the top of the table. They did so in fine fashion, too, putting four goals past the sixth-place side to comfortably beat them 4-1 away from home on Sunday afternoon. Simon Thern volleyed Malmö FF into the lead after only twelve minutes, and, just two minutes after Thern had to be substituted early in the second half due to a nasty knock on the head, Magnus Eriksson, who had set up the first goal, chipped Kalmar goalkeeper Etrit Berisha to double their lead. They were then 3-0 ahead twenty minutes later when substitute Erik Friberg scored his fourth goal of the season, and Guillermo Molins, recently re-signed after two years away from the club, made it 4-0 five minutes later with his first goal in his first game back. Eighteen-year-old Brazilian striker Mael pulled a goal back for Kalmar deep into injury time but it wasn’t enough to avoid a second consecutive league defeat.

Helsingborg are now without a win in their last three league games after they were marginally beaten by Mjällby in a seven-goal thriller on Monday evening. Pär Ericsson put Mjällby ahead after less than a minute had been played, and went on to double their lead thirty-six minutes later. David Accam pulled one back for Helsingborg ten minutes into the second half, but Mjällby restored their two-goal lead six minutes later when Macedonian defender Daniel Ivanovski fired in from close range for his first ever goal for the club, despite being with them since 2006. Shortly after Accam was shown a straight red card for a rash challenge on Mattias Håkansson, New Zealander Craig Henderson made it 4-1 with eight minutes left to play, and, with the full-time whistle fast approaching, two goals in quick succession from Álvaro Santos and Peter Larsson reduced Mjällby’s lead to just one goal and gave Helsingborg hope of pulling off a late comeback, but Mjällby held on to record their first league win in over a month.

Not only does the defeat leave Helsingborg three points behind Malmö FF, it also leaves them equal on points with both third-place IFK Göteborg and fourth-place AIK, after both sides were victorious this weekend. IFK Göteborg beat reigning champions Elfsborg 3-1 at home on Saturday, thanks to a second-half brace from Tobias Hysén, whilst a last-minute goal from Henok Goitom cancelled out Ricardo Santos’ equaliser six minutes earlier to steal a 3-2 win for AIK at home to ninth-place Åtvidaberg on Monday evening. There is now a seven-point gap between Helsingborg, IFK Göteborg, and AIK, as a result of defeats for both Elfsborg and Kalmar, who sit in fifth and sixth place, respectively, with thirty-one points each.

At the foot of the table, Syrianska FC remain rooted to the bottom after they lost for the third consecutive league game when they hosted eleventh-place Öster on Friday evening. Pablo Piñones-Arce scored the game’s only goal shortly after the half-hour mark to extend Öster’s unbeaten run to four games as they rapidly make their way up the table. As for Syrianska FC, eight points still separate them and Brommapojkarna, who fell back into the relegation zone this weekend after they were beaten and Halmstad, who sat one point behind them before this round but with a superior goal difference, picked up a draw. Brommapojkarna were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Norrköping, after substitute Bobbie Friberg da Cruz scored with one of the last kicks of the game to steal a third win in their last four games for Norrköping, extending their unbeaten run to five games. Halmstad, meanwhile, scored a late goal of their own to salvage a point against Gefle, with substitute Johan Blomberg scoring three minutes into injury time to salvage a 2-2 draw.

Halmstad remain two points behind thirteenth-place Djurgården, who were only able to draw 1-1 at home to twelfth-place Häcken, with Godsway Donyoh scoring for the hosts after nine minutes, and Rene Makondele equalising for Häcken from the penalty spot with quarter-of-an-hour left to play. Just one point still separates the two sides, although Djurgården, who haven’t had the best of times recently, are in better form than Häcken, as this weekend’s draw was the first time that they had avoided defeat since the end of June.

Ben Cullimore

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

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