Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: Summer Leagues 2011 Review (Part Two)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 27, 2011

In the second part of our European summer leagues review we look back at another six leagues which fell upon the 2011 calendar year.

KAZAKHSTAN: FC Shakhter Karagandy (Played 32, Points 42) finished the season as Kazakhstan Premier League champions but it didn’t look so clear cut throughout the season. With the number of points halved after 22 games the table was led by FC Zhestyn who enjoyed a four point advantage over FC Astana with the eventual champions a further three points behind in third place. However the Championship Group stage saw a turnaround in fortunes for FC Shakhter who gained 21 points out of 30 in their last ten matches compared to FC Zhestyn’s 13 and FC Astana’s 10 to take the championship trophy. In the relegation group FK Kairat and FK Vostok suffered anguish after finishing in the bottom two places. Sixth place FC Ordabasy became the 14th different club to win the Kazakh Cup in 20 years after beating FC Tobol Kostenay 1-0 in the final.

LATVIA: FK Ventspils (Played 32, Points 71) regained their position as Latvia’s top club and managed to make it double trouble for their arch-rivals Liepājas Metalurgs in both league and cup. Ventspils won their fourth Virsliga title in six years by the narrowest of margins, a final day goalless draw against outgoing champions Skonto Riga helped them claim the point they needed to crawl over the line. The champions also had the better of Metalurgs in the Latvian Cup final with a 3-1 score line helping the Yellow and Blues to their second ever domestic double. Skonto FC finished in fourth place behind surprise package FC Daugava and, thus, failed to qualify for Europe for only the second time in the club’s twenty year history. They did see some silverware though, denying Ventspils a famous treble by beating them on penalties in the final of the cross-border Triobet Baltic League tournament. At the bottom of the table Olimps/RFS will drop down after a five year stay in the top flight. After finishing bottom of the nine team league they lost a two-legged play-off to FK Spartaks who will join 1. Liga champions Metta/LU in the 2012 Virsliga.

LITHUANIA: FK Ekranas (Played 33, Points 80) made it a hat-trick of clubs to win the league and cup double in the Baltic States. Like their counterparts Flora Tallinn (Estonia) and FK Ventspils (Latvia) did in their domestic arenas, Ekranas complimented the A Lyga title – their fourth straight championship beating Zalgiris Vilnius by eight points – with a Lithuanian Cup triumph. In an eventful cup final FK Ekranas eventually saw off FK Banga with a 4-2 victory in extra-time. FK Suduva Marijampole finished in third spot to secure a place in the UEFA Europa League whilst bottom two clubs FK Atlantas and FK Klaipeda will go down into 1 Lyga in 2012.

NORWAY: FK Molde (Played 30, Points 58) won their maiden Tippaligaen title with a five point difference separating them from nearest challengers Tromsø IL, the triumph all the more remarkable due it to being achieved in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s debut season as a coach. Rosenborg Trondheim managed to claw their way back up to a respectable third place following a dreadful start to the campaign finishing the season four points further back. Aalesunds FK had Michael Barrantes to thank for landing the club their second Norwegian Cup in three years, his goals proving the difference when beating Brann Bergen 2-1 in November’s showpiece final. At the bottom of the league Sarpsborg 08 and IK Start are the unfortunate teams who must tough it out in the second tier next season.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Shamrock Rovers (Played 36, Points 77) crowned a hugely successful season by clinching their second successive Airtricity League of Ireland title by holding off Sligo Rovers in a tight contest. Shamrock Rovers had already won the all-Ireland Setanta Sports Cup in May beating Dundalk 2-0 in the final, and became the first Irish team to qualify for the Europa League group stages, before winning their record extending 17th league title in November. League runners-up Sligo consoled themselves by winning the FAI Cup over Shelbourne but needed penalties to win it following a 1-1 draw after extra-time. Derry City scored the only goal of the game when defeating Cork City in the League Cup final early in the season. Both defeated cup finalists managed to win promotion to the top-flight along with Monaghan United whose 5-1 aggregate win over Galway United in a play-off saw them through. With three teams coming up and only one dropping down, the league will consist of twelve teams from the 2012 season.

SWEDEN: Helsingborgs (Played 30, Points 63) won their seventh Allsvenskan title with five points proving a sufficient enough margin to clinch the trophy ahead of nearest challengers AIK Solna. The newly-crowned champions also won the Swedish Cup final in early November with a 3-1 win over Kalmar helping them to double success. Outgoing champions Malmö FF could only finish fourth in the league and were pipped to a European spot by third placed Elfsborg IF who were three points better off. At the other end of the table Halmstad and Trelleborgs went down to the Superettan (second division) whilst Syrianska FC managed to fend off relegation by defeating Ängelholms IF 4-3 on aggregate in a promotion/relegation play-off and preserved their top flight status.

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Scandinavia: FCK set the pace; summer champs round-up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 10, 2011
Roland Nilsson

Roland Nilsson has got Danish champions FC København off to a good start

Things already have a familiar look about them after just four matches in Denmark’s Superligaen whilst the summer championships of Norway, Sweden and Finland are starting to get interesting as they reach the final third of the season.

Any hope amongst the rest of the Superliga clubs that FK København would loosen their grip on the title early on will not have been helped by the champions’ unbeaten start to the new campaign. Following Ståle Solbakken’s departure for German Bundesliga club 1.FC Köln, new coach Roland Nilsson has had an encouraging start to life at the capital club. Following an opening day win against SønderjyskE, FCK drew with potential title contenders Odense Boldklub in their first home match of the season before putting FC Nordsjælland and HB Køge to the sword with back-to-back victories. The champions lead the table with ten points from their opening four matches but last season’s runners-up Odense Boldklub are amongst three clubs to be just two points behind the leaders along with AaB Aalborg, the last team to deprive FCK of the title in 2007-08, and AC Horsens.

Norwegian champions Rosenborg Trondheim have had an up-and-down kind of season in the Tippeligaen this time around and currently lie in eighth place twelve points behind leaders Molde FK albeit with two games in hand. The champions defeated the league leaders 3-2 in the most recent round of matches but any hopes of a comeback seem to be a little far-fetched at the moment. Molde FK lead the way with 38 points from 19 games with coach and former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær doing well in his first full season in the dugout. Molde are closely followed by Brann Bergen (33 points) and Tromsø IL (32 points).

The Swedish Allsvenskan has become a two-horse race in recent weeks with Helsingborgs IF and IF Elfsborg pulling away from the chasing pack. Leaders Helsingborgs (45 points) currently hold a three point advantage over Elfsborg with both clubs enjoying good form with the former unbeaten since May and the latter June. With the two clubs due to meet in Elfsborg’s Borås Arena on September 21st it would set the title race up nicely if both of these teams were still making all of the running at that time.

In contrast the Finnish Veikkausliiga looks set to be heading its way to the capital yet again with defending champions HJK Helsinki topping the table with a nine point lead over Inter Turku although the former do have a game in hand. Both of the top two have lost three league matches so far but the difference in quality is in HJK’s ability to finish teams off consistently with the Helsinki giants failing to draw a single game all season, winning sixteen of their nineteen games thus far.

Europe: New seasons in Norway, Sweden and Russia

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 11, 2010
AIK Solna

AIK Solna celebrate winning the 2009 Allsvenskan title

It is around this time of year where most of Europe’s major leagues are just getting into the business end of the season whereas in some other countries the season is just about to start for yet another year. There are three cases of the latter occurring in Norway, Sweden and Russia this weekend and “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” previews each of these championships ahead of the big kick-off:

SWEDEN

The Allsvenskan kicks off on Saturday afternoon with last season’s runners-up IFK Göteborg away at Kalmar FF with the record champions from Gothenburg hoping to begin to make up for last season’s disappointment of finishing four points behind AIK Solna. The champions celebrated the domestic league and cup double last season and, only last weekend, won the 2010 Swedish Super Cup and will want to carry on this winning momentum with an opening weekend win at home to last season’s Superettan (second tier) champions AIF Mjällby. Former European Cup finalist Malmö FF have been struggling in mid-table obscurity in recent years and haven’t won the Swedish championship since 2004. They hope to improve on this by beating GAIS away with former Sweden international Roland Nilsson, the coach of Malmö, going back to the Gothenburg side which he managed between 2002-07. Djurgårdens, who survived in the Allsvenskan thanks to a two-legged play-off victory over Assyriska at the end of last season, will hope to begin with three points over Häcken BK whilst newly-promoted Åtvidabergs will want to impress or, at the very least, avoid embarrassment by gaining something from their game away at Örebro SK. The other three matches on Matchday 1 sees 1999 champions Helsingborgs play IF Brommapojkarna, Halmstads BK at home to Trelleborgs FF and Gefle IF at home to Elfsborg IF.

NORWAY

Record champions Rosenborg Trondheim secured their twenty-first Tippaligaen title in 2009 finishing a comfortable thirteen points ahead of nearest challengers Molde FK. Erik Hamren, who coached Rosenborg to the title last season, will stay with the champions until August when he takes full responsibilty for the Swedish national team, a job he has been doing on a part-time basis since November last year. Rosenborg begin the defence of the title with as tough a test as they could’ve wished for; an away trip to last season’s runners-up Molde! SK Brann Bergen will hope for a title challenge this season with last season’s Player of the Year Erik Huseklepp hoping to make as much impact as in 2009. SK Brann begin the campaign with a home match against last season’s Adeccoligaen (second-tier) champions FK Haugesund whilst the other promoted sides Hønefoss BK and Kongsvinger, who qualified via an end-of-season play-off in 2009, play against Tromsø IL and Strømsgodset IF respectively. Aalesunds FK, who are coached by former international Kjetil Rekdal, begin 2010 with a home match against Lillestrøm SK for whom former Manchester United star Henning Berg is in charge. Stabæk IF, whose defence of the title last season was unsuccessful, will face-off against Odd Grenland whilst Viking FK start their season against Vålerenga, whose 2005 championship triumph feels so long ago now while in the remaining game on Matchday 1 sees IK Start play Sandefjord Fotball.

RUSSIA

Having won the Russian Premier League for the last two seasons Rubin Kazan’s main ambition for 2010 is to make it a hat-trick of titles, for the side based in Tatarstan have high ambitions to become the new dominant force in Russian football. Having beaten record champions Spartak Moscow by eight points in the 2009 season Rubin will want to take charge of the league from the beginning and they have considerably more match practice than their opponents as they have been in UEFA Europa League action in the last month whilst the rest of the league have been in training camps or playing friendly matches abroad. The champions’ campaign begins on Sunday, three days after their UEFA Europa League tie with VfL Wolfsburg, with a home tie against Lokomotive Moscow. Elsewhere Valeri Karpin begins his first full season in charge of Spartak Moscow, having replaced Michael Laudrup last season, and sees his charges begin with a home derby against Dinamo Moscow. Zenit Saint Petersburg, with Italian Luciano Spalletti in charge following the departure of Dick Advocaat, begin away at Krylia Sovetov Samara who were close to dropping out of the Premier League due to financial difficulties but got a last-minute stay of execution having attracted some new sponsors. CSKA Moscow get the show on the road on Friday night with a home game against Amkar Perm and hope that Miloš Krasić will continue the good form that he showed last season, especially in the UEFA Champions League. Two teams who hope to improve on average campaigns last season are FC Rostov and Tom Tomsk who meet each other this weekend and will want to better their 14th and 9th place finishes from last season. Three promoted teams will get their campaigns under way with tough home ties. Last season’s First League (second-tier) champions Anzhi Makhachkala, Sibir Novosibirsk and Alania Vladikavkaz (the 1995 Russian champions) play against Spartak Nalchik, Terek Grozny and FC Saturn respectively.