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Archive for April, 2010

Gameweek 7

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

This was a round of firsts: AIK’s first win, Malmö FF’s first lose, and Åtvidaberg’s first goal.

Croatian midfielder Haris Radetinac had the honour of ending Åtvidaberg’s 575 minute-long goalless streak. Unfortunately two own-goals meant their opponents Djurgården won 2-1 and Åtvidaberg are still waiting for their first win.

In mark contrast to their respective seasons thus far both AIK and IFK produced impressive victories. AIK comprehensively defeated Kalmar 3-0, who in turn are still waiting for their first win. IFK Göteborg returned to form by defeated West Coast rivals Elfsborg 5-1.

If AIK vs. Kalmar was the battle of underachievers, than Mjällby vs. Häcken was the battle of overachievers. The spoils went to Mjällby in a 1-0 win. Trelleborg might have been giant killers last week, but this week they lost 0-1 at home to fellow strugglers BP.

Down in Halmstad, Gais would have felt hard done by a weak penalty awarded in the first half. But they had no excuses for the rest of their meek performance and not surprisingly lost 3-0.

But the most significant match of the round, and the most eagerly anticipated, was the Skåne derby between Helsingborg and Malmö on Tuesday night. The Sky Blues drew first blood when they were awarded a penalty for a supposed handball, although on replay it appears the ball actually connected with Marcus Nilsson’s chest. Yet from that point on the game was all Helsingborg’s. Marcus Lantz and Ardian Gashi had complete control of the midfield and dictated play for most of the match, while the later scored an equaliser. Marcus Nilsson later made amends for his earlier “handball” by scoring what proved to be the winning goal. The 2-1 win puts Helsingborg five points clear on top of the table, the only team left in the competition undefeated, and at this stage of the season clear title favourites.

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Gameweek Six

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Helsingborg and Malmö remain undefeated after Gameweek Six, and occupy first and second respectively, thus adding a bit of extra spice to their Skåne derby on Sunday. As could be expected in a top-vs-bottom clash, Helsingborg handled Åtvidaberg with ease winning 3-0. Meanwhile Malmö won 3-1 against overachievers Häcken, which is a score line that probably doesn’t do Häcken justice seeing as their first half performance was supposedly one of their best all season.

Last year’s top two teams, AIK and IFK Göteborg, continued their dismal seasons with both losing to unfancied opponents. AIK will feel particularly hard done by seeing as they dominated the first half of their match against Halmstad. But an inability to take their chances and use their dominance of possession meant the game looked certain to be a 0-0 draw. But Halmstad’s Michael Gorlitz scored the game’s only goal in the 89th minute.

IFK would have hoped to turn their season around last night with a visit to Trelleborg, who had yet to win a game all season. But Trelleborg came out firing, scoring a goal within two minutes, and leading 2-0 at half time. IFK managed to get one back through Thomas Olsson, but Trelleborg held out to win 2-1.

Kalmar, also considered to be title contenders, are also still waiting for their first win of the season after drawing 0-0 with Mjällby. In Borås Elfsborg put in a solid performance to come from a goal down to comprehensible defeat Djurgården 3-1. Brommapojkarna lost 0-1 to Örebro.

One of the more surreal scenes of the round was the normally boisterous Gais klacken remaining absolutely silent during their 2-1 win over Gelfe. The silence was a protest against the club’s administrators, who many fans accuse of gross incompetence and continued indifference to their interests. But a tense final 10 minutes, where Gelfe threatened to score equaliser, made it difficult for many fans to remain silent, and the klacken were happy to brake out into song once the final whistle went.

Scenes from AIK v Halmstad

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Allsvenskan: Round Five

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I know I’m late and that I’ve already missed the first four rounds, but I’m afraid I’ve been away for the past month. Funny enough the Allsvenskan doesn’t get much coverage in Australia, and so it has only been in the past few days I’ve had a chance to review the season so far.

After five rounds Helsingborg and Malmö FF hold the top two positions, which isn’t that surprising. If memory serves me correctly the two Skåne sides held the top two positions at this stage last year too, but were a lot further down by season’s end.

The big surprise has been Mjällby and Häcken. Häcken were one of the big over achievers last season and their impressive start this season suggests it wasn’t a fluke. For the second season running they’ve managed a win against arch city rivals IFK Göteborg. Mjällby, who were only promoted last season, were always likely to struggle but have defied all expectations by notched up three wins and sit in fourth position. Meanwhile, reigning champions AIK are second last and are yet to win a game. Fellow title chasers Kalmar are also winless, while both IFK Göteborg and Elfsborg are also struggling with only one win each. It’s still early days and there are another 25 rounds left, but already it’s looking like a turbulent unpredictable season.

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The Super Ones

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I know this review is a little late, but in case you didn’t notice, last weekend saw the kick-off of the Superettan, Sweden’s second division. The competition comprises of 16 teams, with the top two automatically getting promoted to the Allsvenskan, with third entering a two-leg play-off against the Allsvenskan’s third last team.

Overall the competition is relatively even and having watched very little Superettan matches in the past I’m reluctant to offer my own predictions. However from what I gather from the pundits the consensus seems to be that the Superettan title will most likely be won by one of four key contenders: Hammarby, Örgyte, Assyriska and Syrianska.

The first two, Hammarby and Örgyte, would ordinarily consider inclusion in the Allsvenskan as their birthright. But both were dismal last season and found themselves getting relegated (and Djurgården were lucky not to join them). Admittedly ÖIS spent seasons 2007 and 2008 in this division and supporters are disappointed to seem themselves back here so soon. As for Hammarby, their relegation comes just when their long-suffering supporters thought they’d finally consolidated their Allsvenskan status.

Both sides have successfully kept their squads together and will be hoping for a quick promotion straight back up, Unlike many other European competitions, relegated teams in Sweden don’t seem to have the same pressure to sell players. ÖIS’ Alvaro Santos was determined to leave, obviously thinking the Superettan was beneath him, but with no club willing or able to make an offer, he’ll be stuck in the second tier.

Also amongst the favourites are Assyriska and Syrianska. Both come from Södertälje, and both have been built out of migrant communities, but expect some serious animosity between these two as they’ll both be competing for a precious spot in the Allsvenskan. Assyriska have finished in the top four in the past two seasons, and last season only missed out after losing on away goals in a spiteful match against Djurgården. They’ve recruited well over the winter, including Turkey’s Eris Ceyhun who has played for Fehnerbahce and Galatasaray. However not to be out done Syrianska have made one of the biggest signings in the Superettan in Nigerian striker Peter Ijeh, formerly of Malmö FF and IFK Göteborg.

One other team that will be closely watched will be Landskrona and their new manager Henrik Larsson. As one of Sweden’s most loyal servants a lot of people want to see him do well. And as is the case with many high profile players who enter management, many even assume he’s a great manager. Before Landskrona’s first match he was being linked to the vacant manager’s job at former club Celtic. I for one am actually quite cynical about Larsson’s managerial aspirations for the simple reason that players blessed with his sort of natural talent generally make poor managers. But I’d love to be proved wrong.

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IF Elfsborg: Club Profile

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

IF Elfsborg come from a small city (or large town if you will) called Borås. It has a population of 60,000 people and is within an hour of Göteborg, and yet other than their football team I couldn’t tell you anything about it. I’ve never been there. Never even considered going there. Neither Lonely Planet nor Rough Guide bother to mention Borås. (As far as I can tell no other place in Sweden with their equivalent population or higher is completely ignored like this.) I’ve never heard anyone, Swedish or otherwise, say anything positive about it. But what really worries me is that not even Elfsborg’s star player, Anders Svensson, wants to live in Borås. He commutes everyday from Göteborg and I suspect he isn’t the only one.

This may explain why the people of Borås are so grateful for their football team. Without it the town would have faed into even greater obscurity, and over the past few years Elfsborg have ensured that at least football fans know where Borås is by being one of the country’s better sides.

In fact in proportion to their population base, Elfsborg are quite possibly the best-supported team in Sweden. There average home attendance is just under 10,000, which means that whenever a match in on in town, roughly one in every six Boråsians will be in attendance. With a capacity of just under 18,000, Borås Arena can hold nearly a third of the town’s population.

Elfsborg’s history isn’t particularly remarkable but they have experienced a renaissance of late. In 2005 the club built a brand new stadium, Borås Arena, and more money was pumped into the squad. Former players, most notably Anders Svensson and Mathias Svensson, who had since moved abroad, were enticed back, and in 2006 it paid dividends with the club winning their first title in forty-five years. Elfsborg have finished in the top four every season since, ensuring continued participation in Europe. At the start of every season they are amongst the title favourites and this year was no exception.

Their tendency to play attractive attacking football, coupled with the fact that they’re not from Göteborg or Stockholm, mean they are popular with neutrals.

Why Might I have Heard of Them?

By consistently finishing in the top four, Elfsborg have frequently played in European competitions over the past four years. The highlight: making it as far as the third qualifying round of the Champions League in 2007, before being knocked out by Spanish giants Valencia. The lowlight: Being knocked out of the 2008/09 UEFA Cup by Irish minnows St. Patrick’s Athletic.

Any players, past or present, I might know?

Anders Svensson played for Southampton right up until they were relegated from the Premier League before returning home. Teddy Lucic once spent a season on loan at Leeds United. James Keene, one of the few Englishmen playing in Sweden, used to be on the books at Portsmouth. Trivia fans might like to note that Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies actually played for Elfsborg back in 1986.

Colours and kit: Yellow shirts and Black shorts.

Nicknames: Di Gule (The Yellows)

Home Ground: Borås Arena

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