Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: Summer Leagues 2011 Review (Part 1)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 27, 2011

With many of Europe’s top leagues now well under way it is at this time of year that we look back at those championships which take place through the summer months. In this two-part special we focus on twelve countries ranging from Armenia to Kazakhstan, Latvia to the Republic of Ireland and from Iceland to Belarus and highlight those who are celebrating title success, cup final triumphs or in despair following relegation.

ARMENIA: Ulisses FC (Played 28, Points 53) became Armenian Premier League champions for the first time in their history after seeing off the challenge of Gandsazar FC and record champions Pyunik Yerevan by a seven point margin. Mika FC will feature in next season’s UEFA Europa League alongside Gandzasar and Pyunik after winning the Armenian Cup for the sixth time. They defeated Shirak FC by four goals to one with Narek Beglaryan featuring prominently with two of his team’s four goals in the final. Bottom club Ararat Yerevan finished bottom of the league table with a measly ten points to show for their efforts and finished the campaign with twelve straight defeats.

BELARUS: Perennial champions BATE Borisov (Played 33, Points 66) strolled their way to a sixth consecutive title, and eighth in total, to overtake Dinamo Minsk as record winners of the Belarussian Premier League. They will look ahead to the UEFA Champions League again in 2012-13 whilst runners up Shakhtyor Soligorsk will play in the UEFA Europa League alongside Belarussian Cup winners FK Gomel, who defeated Neman Grodno 2-0 in May’s showpiece final with two goals coming in the last two minutes of the match. Dnepr Mogilev drop down automatically for finishing bottom of the league table while FK Vitebsk must face a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off with Partizan Minsk.

ESTONIA: Flora Tallinn (Played 36, Points 86) are back as the dominant force in Estonian football. They clinched their second successive Meistriliiga title by getting the better of Nomme Kalju by seven points. Arch-rivals Levadia Tallinn, who won five titles in six years from 2004-09, were lagging behind in fourth place. Flora clinched the double after the champions had already defeated Trans Narva in May’s Estonian Cup final with a 2-0 scoreline. At the bottom of the league Lasnamäe Ajax had a shocking season losing 32 of their 36 games, the other four were drawn, and had a goal difference of minus 181 which, not surprisingly, meant that they lost their place in the top flight. Kuressare managed to keep their place however following a 5-1 aggregate victory over second-tier side Infonet in a two-legged play-off.

FAROE ISLANDS: B36 Tórshavn (Played 27, Points 67) won their eighth Meistaradeildin title, their third in the last decade, by a seven point margin over EB/Streymur. The league runners-up did, at least, have some consolation in the form of a Faroe Islands Cup triumph. They defeated IF Fuglafjørður 3-0 in the final, with Arnbjørn Hansen bagging a brace, to secure their fourth cup win in the last five years. B71 Sandoy and 07 Vestur are the clubs forced to drop a division next season after finishing in the bottom two places in the league. Whereas the former always looked likely to go down, claiming just eleven points all season, the latter just missed out on staying up by two points, proving a huge relief to record champions HB Tórshavn who just managed to survive by the skin of their teeth.

FINLAND: HJK Helsinki (Played 33, Points 81) had one of their easiest Veikkausliiga title wins to date this season. The capital club cemented their domestic supremacy when winning the league by no fewer than 24 points with no real challenge at all likely throughout the season. HJK also won the Finnish Cup beating KuPS Kuopio by the odd goal in three with all of the strikes coming in extra-time, one of which came from Finland’s most decorated player Jari Litmanen in what would seem to be his last season in professional football. Honka Espoo won the final piece of silverware after beating Tampere United 3-0 in the League Cup final. RoPS Rovaniemi became the sole demoted team from the league after finishing the season on 23 points, eight behind FF Jaro.

ICELAND: KR Reykjavik (Played 22, Points 47) pipped FH Hafnarfjarðar by three points to secure their first Urvalsdeild title in eight seasons and 25th championship overall whilst outgoing champions Breiðablik had to be satisfied with a sixth place finish. KR further rubbed salt into the wounds of the rest of the competition by sealing their 12th Icelandic Cup with a 2-0 win over Þór Akureyri. The losing cup finalists were to suffer further disappointment when they, along with bottom club Vikingur, finished in the bottom two places in the league and were relegated.

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: BATE and Skonto Riga win crucial clashes; Summer Leagues Round-Up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 15, 2010
BATE Borisov

BATE Borisov could be celebrating more title success this year after beating Soligorsk 2-0 at the weekend

Although most of Europe’s top leagues have now got under way for a new season that doesn’t mean that we forget those championships which began earlier in the year and which are now entering the business end of the season. There have been, for example, top of the table clashes in Belarus, Latvia and Finland whilst league leaders dropped points in Russia and won three points in Estonia, Lithuania and the Republic of Ireland. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments in Europe’s summer leagues.

In the Belarussian Vysshaya Liga on Saturday there were two important fixtures with the match of the round involving defending champions BATE Borisov, looking to win a fifth straight championship, playing against second place Soligorsk. At the same time there was a capital derby with bottom of the table Partizan Minsk taking on third place FC Minsk. BATE took control of their home encounter from the off and were two goals to the good after just half an hour thanks to strikes from Artem Kontsevoy and Edgar Olekhnovich. With no further goals in the game the home side had secured three points without too many problems. In the other game FC Minsk beat their cross-town rivals by four goals to one with Dzmitry Osipenko on target twice to keep up the chase on BATE Borisov (played 20, points 45), overtaking Soligorsk into second place and lie three points behind the leaders albeit having played a game more.

In Latvia’s Virslīga league leaders Skonto Riga (played 15, points 40) kept up their title credentials thanks to a 2-1 away victory at defending champions Liepājas Metalurgs. Brazilian Nathan Junior scored his twelfth goal of the season from the penalty spot to give Skonto the lead and it got better for the capital outfit on 35 minutes when Ruslan Mingazov doubled the lead. After that setback it was clear that Rüdiger Abramczik’s men needed to react and that was what they did just four minutes later, halving the deficit with Jurģis Kalns scoring from the spot. No matter how much the home side tried though they were unable to break through Skonto’s resolute defence for a second time and it was Alexandrs Starkovs’ men who went away with the three points. With Metalurgs now a full ten points behind Skonto in the standings the championship is now a two horse race with second place FK Ventspils easily beating FK Jaunība by five goals to nil to remain just two points behind Skonto. Their imminent clash on 12th September could be a fascinating duel.

Welliton

Welliton's hat-trick helped Spartak beat Lokomotiv 3-2 on Sunday

The Russian Premier League saw Zenit St Petersburg drop two points at home to Dinamo Moscow. The visitors took the lead thanks to new signing Kevin Kuranyi who opened the scoring after 26 minutes but it only took Zenit eight minutes to restore parity after Danko Lazović scored only his second goal of the season to help preserve Zenit’s lead (played 16, points 40) which remains at seven points after Rubin Kazan, champions from the last two years, also dropped two points in a 1-1 draw away at Terek Grozny. CSKA Moscow went above Rubin on goal difference thanks to an impressive 4-0 home win against Anzhi Makhachkala, Sekou Oliseh scoring twice along with Zoran Tošić and Vágner Love. In the Moscow derby Spartak got back to winning ways with a 3-2 away win against Lokomotiv with Valeri Karpin’s men grateful to the shooting boots of Brazilian forward Welliton whose hat-trick was crucial in gaining three points for Spartak who now lie in seventh in the table on equal points to Lokomotiv.

The Veikkausliiga in Finland saw record champions HJK Helsinki lose at home to nearest challengers Honka Espoo, Rasmus Schüller’s goal midway through the second half was enough to separate the sides and narrow the gap between HJK and Honka to just three points with both teams having played eighteen games. KuPs Tuopio won their game away at JJK Jyväskylä on Friday by three goals to one to remain just a further point behind HJK and ensure that the championship race remains tight in Finland.

Estonia’s Meistriliiga saw both of the main title chasers predictably win their games against inferior opposition. Defending champions and league leaders Levadia Tallinn (played 25, points 60) easily disposed of fifth place Nõmme Kalju by five goals to one with Brazilian Felipe Nunes bagging a brace. Title challengers and eternal rivals Flora Tallinn are six points behind Levadia but have three games in hand, a situation that remains the same after their 5-0 home demolition of FC Lootus Kohtla-Järve with Hannes Anier scoring a hat-trick to keep up the pressure on the league leaders.

FK Ekranas (played 18, points 45) preserved their ten point advantage at the top of Lithuania’s A Lyga coming from behind to gain a point at home to FK Sūduva. Povilas Lukšys gave the away side the lead after 27 minutes only to see the league leaders equalize seven minutes later through Ramūnas Radavičius. All is not lost for the chasing pack however as Žalgiris Vilnius, who drew their weekend game 1-1 away at FK Banga, lie ten points behind with a game in hand and FK Sūduva are a further point back with two games in hand.

Finally in the Republic of Ireland’s Airtricity Premier League Shamrock Rovers managed to pull away from title rivals St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night after the former’s 2-0 win away at Drogheda United was coupled with the latter’s 3-2 defeat at Bray Wanderers. Shamrock (played 25, points 48) have the advantage but will have to beware of the challenge not just of St Pat’s but also of Sligo Rovers who lie six points behind in third place (albeit having played a game more) after they beat University College Dublin (UCD) 4-0 on Saturday.