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Friday, 04 November 2011

Scandinavian Spotlight: Molde Finally Clinch the Norwegian Title, Cup Finals Loom and Europa League Failure

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Congratulations to Mr Solskjær and his boys. Molde FK are the new, and first time, champions of Norway. Despite being pegged back in the last minute of their Sunday game against Strømsgodset for a 2-2 draw the point was enough to spark scenes of wild celebration among their fans and players alike.

As in Sweden a few weeks ago when Helsingborgs clinched the title, all those connected with Molde had to wait for the result of a later game to come through to confirm their new found status. Tromsø's challenge ended when their simultaneous game also ended with a share of the spoils, but the clincher came when Rosenborg were comprehensively beaten at home by Brann.

Solskjær himself said: "We knew when it went to 4-1 we had won the league."  Brann didn't stop there though and went on to put six past their hapless hosts.  The final score was 6-3, but Rosenborg must be reflecting that this was a miserable end to their reign as last season's champions. Brann, on the other hand, will be delighted with such a display ahead of this weekend's Cup Final against Aalesunds, a performance which also moves them up to fourth just a point behind Rosenborg with two games left to play.

With cup finals in mind, the identity of Kalmar's opponents in the Svenska Cupen final was decided last Saturday when league champions Helsingborg overcame Ørebro 3-1 away in the competition's penultimate game. This means the team from the south-east will have home advantage in the final and will be looking to retain their trophy and complete the double in front of their own fans, although support should be split 50-50. Should they do so there will doubtless be a repeat tomorrow of the jubilant scenes which greeted their league win on September 25.

Some 410km north in Oslo, the following day sees the final of the Norwegian Cup at the Ulleval Stadion (home of Vålerenga and the national team) with Brann taking on Aalesunds, whose only major success since their foundation in 1914 was victory in the same competition in 2009. Should Aalesunds win they will secure a place in the second qualifying round of the Europa League although Brann could still make Europe through their league position. Brann will start as favourites although Aalesunds' manager Kjetil Rekdal will call on all his experience as a player in Germany, Belgium and France to make life as difficult as possible for the men from Bergen.

League business continues apace in Denmark but the final issue was resolved in Sweden on Sunday. After a 2-1 defeat in the first leg, top flight club Syrianska retained their place in the Allsvenskan when they narrowly overcame Angelholm on Sunday. With the score at 2-1 in their favour and extra time looming Syrianska scored an injury time third through Nigerian Peter Ijeh to break their opponents' hearts.

Copenhagen finally got back to winning ways in the Danish Superliga last weekend with an impressive 3-1 away win over Odense as challengers Midtjylland and Nordsjælland dropped points. The gap is back up to six points now going into the international break. Both FCK and Odense were, of course, in Europa League action last night alongside Sweden's Malmø. Sadly not one of them could manage a victory.

Copenhagen put up a good fight against Hannover 96 taking a deserved lead through Dame N'Doye in 67 minutes, but were caught out by a double sucker punch as the Bundesliga outfit hit back a mere four minutes later (Schlaudraff) and completed the win in the 74th when Stindl expertly turned a defender and fired the ball home.

Fellow Danes Odense suffered a similar fate on their visit to the Netherlands when they took an early lead against Twente Enschede only to lose two quick goals to a mistake by keeper Høegh (35) and a Denny Landzaat rocket volley (37). Odense levelled when Fall headed in from distance for his second of the night but had the point snatched from them when sub Fer scored a header for Twente in the 82 minute.

Malmø's Euro misery continued when they were soundly beaten 3-1 by Metalist on their Ukrainian sojourn. The Swedes went 2-0 down early in the second half but pulled one back when Ranegie scored from the edge of the box. Metalist were not to be denied and piled on the pressure finally scoring the killer third when two-goal Taison broke down the right and pulled back for fellow Brazilian Fininho to tap in and clinch the win.

All of this leaves Malmø pointless in last place and the two Danish clubs struggling to progress. OB lie third with four points, three behind Fulham with Twente already assured of going through. Copenhagen are also third on four points behind joint leaders Standard Liege and Hannover 96 on eight.

Not an auspicious night for the Scandinavians in Europe but at least we have the Cup Finals to look forward to. I'll go for a double for Helsingborgs in Sweden and can see Brann picking up their first trophy since winning the league in 2007. At least that will make my father-in-law happy and he might even give his favourite son-in-law a beer.

Heia Brann!

Article by Iain Macfadzean

Related Articles:

Elfsborg clinch third as FC Copenhagen suffer a dip in form

What next for the loveable Sven-Goran Eriksson?

Euro finals berth for both Denmark and Sweden

Iain turns his attention on champions elect Molde

Helingborgs secure Swedish title and world records in Norway

Can Molde hold on to the dream?

Title beckons in Norway and Sweden

Happy days for the Danes

Can Norway see off their main rivals?

How do the small clubs survive

It's all hotting up in the north

Will Europe throw up any major shocks this season?

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Colin Illingworth



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