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Friday, 16 September 2011

Scandinavian spotlight: Titles Beckon in Norway and Sweden, Euro Joy for Danes


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With the international break over it was back to domestic affairs last weekend and the first of the 'proper' European ties this midweek. With mixed results in qualifying for the group stages of the European competitions all eyes were on the races for the championships in Sweden and Norway last weekend.

In Sweden leaders Helsingborgs' draw on Friday away to fifth-placed Hacken turned out to be a reasonable result as closest challengers Elfsborg were well beaten at home against the club in fourth spot, GAIS. Three goals in sixteen second half minutes for the visitors were only answered by a 72nd minute consolation for Elfsborg leaving them seven behind Helsingborgs with only six games remaining in the season. This weekend sees Elfsborg take their turn to visit Hacken while Helsingborgs have the seemingly easier task when they host lowly Mjallby where they should take another significant stride towards winning their seventh Swedish Championship.

The big game in Norway last weekend was Sunday's clash between top dogs Molde and third placed Brann. A must-win game for the men from Bergen saw them start brightly but fall behind to a goal from Magnus Wolff Eikrem in the ninth minute of a match delayed for more than an hour by a floodlight failure. The first half saw Brann have plenty of possession without creating much and Molde took full advantage when Eikrem scored his second on 37. A scrappy second half came to life when centre-back Lars Grorud pulled one back for Brann with a 66th minute header and ensured a dramatic finale to the clash when he equalised in injury time to snatch a point for the visitors. Of course this was a much better result for Molde as Brann remain in third, nine behind Solskjær's outfit.

Tromsø are Molde's only real challengers as we enter the home straight and a 4-2 victory away to Stabæk leaves them six behind with a game in hand. Two wins prior to Sunday's draw while both Brann and Tromsø were dropping points mean Molde remain in pole position.

The Danes meanwhile are now eight games into the season and already FC Copenhagen are opening up a far bigger gap than should be the case so early in the competition. The current champions, and eight times winners in the last 11 seasons, have dropped just two points so far ‑ in their second match of the campaign when they drew 2-2 at home to Odense. Their latest victory was a 1-0 defeat of Lyngby away from home which sees them sit comfortably at the top looking down on AaB (Aalborg) seven points adrift and who lost on Sunday to Nordsjælland. Another of Denmark's biggest clubs Odense are a further point behind having defeated Silkeborg 3-1 on the Saturday.

As mentioned in a previous column the biggest surprise in Denmark so far has been the atrocious form of another big club Brondby (remember them Liverpool?) The team from west Copenhagen – FC Copenhagen's 'new firm' rivals – have so far managed just two wins, although the last match saw them thump bottom club Køge 5-0 which may be the confidence boost they need. Nine points from eight game though leaves them in ninth place 13 points behind their rampant city rivals.

The midweek Euro games were a bit of a mixed bag from a Scandinavian point of view. There were no representatives from the three countries in the Champions League and only a handful of players were on view. Among those who played were Anders Lindegaard, Manchester United's Danish 'keeper who had a couple of decent saves in his side's draw against Benfica in Lisbon, and Swede Kim Kallstrøm, of Lyon who got a yellow card in his side's goal-less tie against Ajax.

Things in the Europa League are a bit brighter with three clubs taking part – Malmø of Sweden and FC Copenhagen and Odense from Denmark. FCK got things off to a decent start in the earlier kick-off when Matleyev of Ukrainian opponents Vorskla Poltava brought down Thomsen and conceded a penalty. Nordstrand scored with a low shot to the keeper's right for the only goal of the game. A good start for FCK in a tough group, which also contains Hannover 96 and Standard Liege.

Denmark's other Euro participants OB Odense also had a good night. They took a first half lead against Polish side Wisla Krakow through former Wigan midfielder Andreas Johansson (35). Wisla equalised when Slovenian Kirm squeezed in a shot under Wessels (54). This goal sparked some life into the Poles who apply more pressure on OB's goal. They were awarded a free kick for a foul by Chavez, taken by Sørensen. Reginiussen headed across goal and John Utaka scored – 2-1 to OB with only ten minutes remaining. Despite some intense pressure from the hosts OB scored again in injury time to complete a good night for Danish clubs. This could be a vital three points on the road for them in a group comprising Fulham and Twente Enschede as well as tonight's opponents.

Malmø's night wasn't so successful as they went down to a heavy defeat away to AZ Alkmaar. AZ scored first with a pivot and 25 yard shot from US internationalist Jozy Altidore. A foul by Ricardinho on Beerens leads to a penalty which is taken by Elm into the top right corner (31). Shortly after a headed clearance fell to Maher and his shot was deflected into the net (39). Early in the second half a fabulous solo goal from Holman who cut in from left and fired into the far corner completed the scoring for the Dutch side who seemed to then take their foot off the gas. A 72nd minute pen gets Malmø on the scoresheet. Klavan fouled Hamad and Larsson scored. Malmø could find it hard in the future with games to come against tough Ukrainian opposition in Metalist Kharkov and Austria Vienna.

Article by Iain Macfadzean

Don’t forget to catch up with all the latest happenings in Scandinavian football with Iain Macfadzean here, every Friday, at Swauarefootball.net.

Related Articles: 

Happy days for the Danes 

Can Norway see off their main rivals?

Transfer window woes for Scandinavian clubs

It's all hotting up in the north

How do the small Scandinavian clubs survive?

Will Europe throw up any major shocks this season?


 

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