Thursday, May 30, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 10 - a thriller in Turku, Honka go third

Perhaps 'week 10' is incorrect - the many recent moans of the Veikkausliiga coaches relate to the number of matches being played. Maybe 'round 10' is more appropriate. Either way, Wednesday saw another full round of fixtures, for most teams a third match in six days. Here's what happened...

TPS 2-4 IFK Mariehamn

Undoubtedly the match of the week, it had goals and drama. Two of Finland's Europa League representatives met in Turku, both needing to find some consistency.

Mariehamn's Jamaican striker Dever Orgill was the key man - he scored twice (31 and 54 minutes) to give the visitors a 0-2 lead, and he has five goals in four games. TPS looked dead and buried, but they managed to pull it back - English midfielder Wayne Brown got one back from the penalty spot on 74 minutes, and substitute Aleksi Ristola equalised eight minutes later with a fantastic finish after a poor clearance.

Jarkko Hurme tries to hide (photo via Tatu Lertola)

But Brazilian midfielder Diego Assis gave Mariehamn the lead again with a fine effort, and IFK sub Kris Bright came on and got a late fourth. A cracking end to the game, and signs that IFK Mariehamn can get by without injured Petteri Forsell. TPS meanwhile lose for the fourth time in nine games, and are showing a Jekyll and Hyde character to their performances.

Highlights of TPS 2-4 IFK Mariehamn

TPS are seventh in the league, with thirteen points from nine games. IFK Mariehamn are sixth, with fifteen points from their ten matches.

Honka 1-0 Lahti

Honka's fourth league win in a row took an age to come, and they certainly made it difficult against a Lahti side who are in a definite funk.

 Not quite the magic touch (photo via Martti Kainulainen)

Kastriot Kastrati had scored five goals in his previous five matches, but he will remember this game for the wrong reasons. Two yellow cards in four first half minutes saw him leave the field after just 27 minutes. It took 87 minutes for the only goal of the game to arrive, and it was Antti Mäkijärvi with a sharp free kick from 30 metres, beating Jesse Joronen.

Highlights of Honka 1-0 Lahti 

Honka now sit third in the table, seventeen points from ten matches, and only three behind the leaders. Lahti are eleventh, with six points from nine games, three ahead of bottom side JJK, but now five points from 10th.


HJK streamed this game live, but I wasn't sure if it was a poor feed, or the pitch was really that bad. Either way, it was bottom against top, and it's not hard to guess what happened.

 The Jyväskylä male model contest didn't go well (photo via Kautto Jaana)

The champions opened the scoring after 21 minutes, through Demba Savage's fifth league goal of the season. Shortly after, JJK striker Babatunde Wusu took a yellow card for a ridiculous dive, but made up for it with a neat goal on 31 minutes, pouncing on poor defending. Teemu Tainio, returning after a 3 match ban, was subbed off just after in clear discomfort. The second half saw HJK toil, but eventually take the win after goals by Sumusalo (77) and Forssell (83).

HJK extend their lead at the top to three points (ahead of VPS), they have twenty points from ten games. JJK are still stuck in twelvth, three points from nine games.

VPS 2-1 Jaro

The derby of Ostrobothnia saw the men from Vaasa triumph, but they left it late. VPS had started well this season, tipped by most to struggle. Jaro meanwhile had played well in most games, but were dropping too many points.

Ameobi, in black and white stripes, holding off the defender

It was Jaro who took the lead, Jonas Emet scoring a penalty on 38 minutes. But VPS came back with an early goal in the second half, Jarno Parikka's attempted pass going in off Mathias Kullström just a minute after the break. Parikka himself scored the winner after a quick throw-in, eight minutes from the end, his third league goal of 2013. The result also means Finland midfielder Tim Sparv needs to sort out nine signed shirts, after running a contest on his Twitter to guess the score and final scorer.

Highlights of VPS 2-1 Jaro

VPS go back up to second in the table, with seventeen points from nine games - three behind HJK with a game in hand. Jaro are tenth, with eleven points from nine games, and five ahead of eleventh-place Lahti.


The need to avoid travel obviously suits RoPS well. A fourth win in six home games against MYPA, who'd started the day second, keeps the points tally ticking over nicely.

RoPS scorer Otaru (photo via Veli-Jukka Mustajärvi)

New arrival Nicholas Otaru scored both goals for the hosts, one in each half, his first since signing from Honka over the winter. MYPA got a consolation through Thomas Aho with four minutes remaining, not that you may realise - I doubt more than a handful of fans made the long trip from Kouvala to Rovaniemi.

Highlights of RoPS 2-1 MYPA

RoPS sit in eighth place after their ten games, with 13 points. MYPA drop to fourth, with sixteen points from nine matches.

KuPS 1-1 Inter

Kuopio played host to a fairly uneventful 1-1 draw, with KuPS sliding back into mediocrity, after a promising lift in form. Dudu headed in from a corner after 59 minutes, but Inter saved a point with a goal from Irakli Sirbiladze with six minutes left. It was the Georgian's third goal in 2013, still some way to go to match the 17 he scored in 2012.

Sirbiladze steals in (photo via Vartaloharhautus)

Highlights of KuPS 1-1 Inter

KuPS are ninth in the table, with twelve points from ten games. Inter are fifth, with fifteen points from their ten matches.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Finland v Belarus, World Cup qualifying squads

Finland continue their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup with a double header against Belarus in June. The first match is on the 7th at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, with the second match four days later in Gomel.

Finland's record so far is a narrow defeat at home to France, a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Georgia, and the 'Miracle of Gijon', a 1-1 draw in Spain.

Villa thwarted again

While the chances of qualifying are extremely slim, all points are crucial if Finland are to improve their seeding before the draw is made for Euro 2016. As of April, Finland would still be highly likely to be in pot 4 for the qualification groups.

Belarus warmed up for the matches with a 0-2 win over Estonia on Monday night.

The Finland squad is:

Goalkeepers: Niki Mäenpää (VVV Venlo), Lukas Hradecky (Esbjerg fB), Henri Sillanpää (VPS)

Defenders: Niklas Moisander (Ajax), Jukka Raitala (Heerenveen), Markus Halsti (Malmö FF) , Petri Pasanen (AGF Århus), Jarkko Hurme (TPS), Mikko Sumusalo (HJK), Niklas Moisander - banned for the first match (Ajax), Paulus Arajuuri (Kalmar FF), Jukka Raitala (SC Heerenveen), Kari Arkivuo (BK Häcken)

Midfielders: Tim Sparv (Greuther Fürth), Alexander Ring (HJK, on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach), Roman Eremenko (Rubin Kazan), Perparim Hetemaj (Chievo Verona), Kasper Hämäläinen (Lech Poznan), Erfan Zeneli, Teemu Tainio, Sebastian Mannström (all HJK), Mika Ojala (BK Häcken)

Forwards: Teemu Pukki (Schalke 04), Mikael Forssell (HJK), Timo Furuholm (Hallescher FC)

The Belarus squad is:

Goalkeepers: Sergei Veremko (Samara), Alyaksandr Hutar (Dynamo Minsk), Sergei Chernik (Neman Grodno)

Defenders: Oleg Veretilo, Vitay Trubilo  (both Dynamo Minsk), Igor Shitov (Saransk), Alexander Martynovich (FC Krasnodar), Yegor Filipenko, Maxim Bordachev (both BATE Borisov), Dmitry Verkhovtsov (Samara)
Midfielders: Stanislav Dragun (Samara), Sergei Kislyak (Rubin Kazan), Yan Tigorev (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Pavlov, Edgar Olekhnovich, Alexander Hleb, Pavel Nekhaichik (BATE Borisov), Anton Putilo (Volga Nizhny Novgorod), Pavel Sitko (Shakhter Soligorsk), Timofei Kalachev (Rostov)
Forwards: Renan Bressan (Alania Vladikavkaz), Vitaly Rodionov (BATE Borisov), Maxim Skavysh (Baltika Kaliningrad)

Former Gunner Hleb in action on Monday

I'll be attending the tie in Helsinki, hoping to see Finland's first win in the group. I'll be in Kuopio during the away tie, so if anyone can recommend a decent pub to watch it in, let me know...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 9: HJK are pants, Honka truck on

A full Sunday schedule, here's the lowdown.

HJK 2-0 RoPS

The champions returned to the top of the table, and snapped away from two defeats in a row, with a routine win over RoPS, who'd only won one game in their last seventeen away Veikkausliiga matches.

Thank the maker he had pants on (photos via Ilta-Sanomat)

Goals in each half from Demba Savage (23mins) and Robin Lod (53mins) sealed the points, but yet again the weirder side of Finnish football has made it big on the World Wide Web. In the second half, while HJK were on the attack, a gent called Jussi Aalto decided it'd be a good time to strip to his pants and run onto the pitch.

Highlights of HJK 2-0 RoPS

Rasmus Schüller put the ball into the net, the goal was disallowed, but it was a splendid tackle by Mathias Lindström which brought the biggest cheer. Aalto had previously disrupted JJK's bronze medal celebration in 2011 - the oxygen of publicity. Hopefully he's not the next Jimmy Jump.


Either way, HJK go top with seventeen points from nine games. RoPS made it one win in eighteen away games, and are tenth (they'd be seventh when taking their Lahti 'win' into account).

KuPS 1-2 Honka

Honka's good form continued with a good win against a KuPS side who were also on a decent run. A replay of the 2012 Suomen Cup final, the visitors got off to a great start with a second minute goal from Kastriot Kastrati. It was his fifth goal in five matches, and just as crucial.

Colley gets in the way (photo via Vartaloharhautus)

Poacher Ilja Venäläinen's fifth goal of the season after seventeen minutes gave KuPS hope of a comeback... But it was the returning Tim Väyrynen, making only his second sub appearance, who scored the winner with a clever volley, just seven minutes after coming on.

Highlights of KuPS 1-2 Honka

Honka are fifth now, recovering well from a rotten start, with thirteen points out of fifteen. KuPS are eighth with eleven points from nine games.

Jaro 1-1 TPS

TPS were still playing catch-up after a mixed start to the season, and their visit to Jaro started well - a terrific solo goal from Mika Ääritalo after 2 minutes was ideal. He was then sent off after seventy minutes, receiving his second yellow card.

Winchester keeps TPS at bay (photo via Vasabladet)

But Jaro had been playing well, despite some mixed results. It was young Trinidadian striker Shahdon Winchester who scored an equaliser with nine minutes left, turning and shooting from the edge of the area. He'd scored his first league goal in the win at Lahti in midweek, and he's making a difference after recovering from a hernia. Two terrific goals in two league games for the youngster.

Highlights of Jaro 1-1 TPS

Jaro are ninth with eleven points from eight games, but only six behind HJK with a game in hand. TPS are sixth, thirteen points from eight games.

Inter 3-1 JJK

Improving Inter stepped it up with a good win at home to JJK. Inter opened the scoring after six minutes, a neat finish from Tamas Gruborovics against his old club. As is often the trend, he didn't celebrate...

Fancy footwork (photo via Jari Laurikko)

Babatunde Wusu equalised against the run of play nine minutes later, Inter's defence slow to react to a hopeful through-ball. Another smart finish, by Guy Gnabouyou, put Inter back in front before half-time. JJK had chances to level, but the pick of the goals came in the final minute, Kalle Kauppi curling in from outside the box.

Highlights of Inter 3-1 JJK

JJK remain rock bottom, with three points from eight matches, while Inter are third with fourteen points from nine games.

IFK Mariehamn 2-2 Lahti

Lahti needed a late equaliser to salvage a valuable point - but they had to equalise twice. Kris Bright gave the Islanders the lead just before half-time. Jussi Länsitalo scored in the second game in a row to make it 1-1 just after an hour.

Phil Jones has serious competition (photo via

Brazilian Diego Assis scored a cute goal with six minutes left, Mariehamn were 2-1 up, and looked set for the win. But a fellow Brazilian, substitute Vini Dantas, recovered from his midweek flu to score a second equaliser with four minutes left, and made it 2-0.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 2-2 Lahti

IFK Mariehamn are seventh in the table, with twelve points from nine matches. Lahti have six points from eight games, but that's likely to become five points.


VPS, conquerors of HJK, fell to a MYPA side who moved into second place in the table.

 Sihvola celebrates again (photo via Vasabladet)

Pekka Sihvola (who else?) scored twice, the first on 23 minutes, followed two minutes later by a neatly flicked header from Tommi Vesala. Sihvola's second, slightly fortunate, rounded off the scoring with six minutes to go, taking him clear at the top of the scoring charts with six goals.

Highlights of MYPA 3-0 VPS

MYPA have sixteen points from eight matches, while VPS drop to fourth, with fourteen points from their eight matches.


The next round of fixtures are played on Wednesday 29th May, and are as follows:

TPS v IFK Mariehamn
KuPS v Inter
Honka v Lahti
VPS v Jaro

The games all kick off at 1630 BST

Friday, May 24, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 8 - VPS go top, Honka continue upwards

A rarity this week - being able to watch two matches at the same time. Five matches on Thursday, here's what happened.


Another shock result in Helsinki, and things aren't so rosy. HJK hadn't lost a home league game since August 2010 - they've now lost two in a row. TPS on Friday, VPS on Thursday.

 Robin Lod tries to keep the ball from Bjork (photo via Lehtikuva)

Missing the suspended Teemu Tainio, and leaving Mikael Forssell on the bench again, HJK looked comfortable with a Joel Pohjanpalo goal after nine minutes, thanks to an outlandish back-heel from Demba Savage. But the changes seemed to knock the champions out of their stride, and they got stung by goals from Ameobi (pea roller from edge of the box, 52mins) and Strandvall (nice finish from layoff, 72mins). Ameobi even hit the post in the dying seconds.

VPS move top of the table on goal difference, fourteen points from seven matches. HJK are also on fourteen, but from eight games.

 A very young looking Pohjanpalo struggles with Smith (photo via Antti Aimo-Koivisto)

The pressure is rising against new coach Sixten Boström, as the "HJK in crisis" headlines are already being typed. The real test will be in Europe, but they could be accused of taking their eye off the ball... 

VPS meanwhile, tipped by many to struggle (including me), have made a cracking start. Will Ameobi prove to be the striker they needed? Early signs are good, and their first win at HJK since 1962 will bode well.

Highlights of HJK 1-2 VPS

Honka 2-1 IFK Mariehamn

The second meeting of the clubs within three days ended with the same score, but the result went the other way. While IFK Mariehamn prevailed in the cup tie, Honka's recent league improvement continued here.

 Saarinen and Thompson compete (photo via Vesa Moilanen)

Two goals in the first thirteen minutes won it, Ruben Palazuelos' first goal in Finland was followed by Youness Rahimi's goal. The visitors, missing the injured Petteri Forsell, got a consolation goal by Dever Orgill (who scored Monday's winner). There were also five yellow cards in the game.

Honka are now in seventh place, having won three of their last four games. Mariehamn meanwhile only have one win in five, and will struggle to replace Forsell, who may not play again before returning to Turkey.

Highlights of Honka 2-1 IFK Mariehamn

Lahti 1-2 FF Jaro

It took over 400 minutes of Veikkausliiga for Lahti to score a league goal - but they chucked it away. Jaro even gave them a man advantage, Mathias Kullström taking two bookings in five minutes, getting the red on 35 minutes.

 Entanglement (photo via Antti Sepponen)

Jussi Länsitalo headed in his second goal of the season after 67 minutes, and it looked like they'd be heading for only their second win. But Trinidadian forward Shahdon Winchester scored a brilliant first league goal for Jaro with thirteen minutes left (Jesse Joronen won't enjoy seeing it again), and Hendrik Helmke scored the winner in injury time with a superb free kick.

Jaro sit ninth after their win, but only four points behind the leaders. Lahti have only five points from seven games, and this is likely to change to four. They're repeating their early season form of 2012, and the lack of goals is worrying. Their close season recruitment seemed to miss one key area.

I'm having trouble embedding the highlights of the game, but you can watch them by clicking here, which will take you to the ESS (Etelä-Suomen Sanomat) website. The Jaro goals are well worth watching.

RoPS 1-0 Inter

RoPS got back to winning ways in the league with a tight match against Inter, who had won the last six meetings between the two clubs. There was a minute's silence in memory of former KuPS (and Manchester United) player Brian Greenhoff, who died on Wednesday.

In memory of former England international Brian Greenhoff (photo via FC Inter)

The key moment of the game took place on 28 minutes - Babacar Diallo brought down Aleksandr Kokko in the area, received a red card, while Kokko dusted himself down to score the only goal of the match.

RoPS sit tenth with ten points (however they're due an extra 2 points for the Lahti match), while Inter are sixth, with eleven points.

Highlights of RoPS 1-0 Inter
JJK 0-0 KuPS

The live Urho match really wasn't worth paying for... This was billed as the Respect match, but that was the highlight. Both teams had injury problems, but had progressed in their Suomen Cup quarter-finals, and this will be the semi-final in August.

A rare chance for Wusu

This dress rehearsal saw several goalmouth scrambles and half chances, and while KuPS keeper Hilander made the more crucial saves, there was little chance of a goal. Ninety minutes passed, and ended without a score.

JJK remain bottom with three points from seven games, while KuPS sit fifth with eleven points from eight matches.

Highlights of JJK 0-0 KuPS


I'll be adding further highlights as they become available.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Suomen Cup quarter-final summary

It was quarter-final day this Monday, and as usual, it was a complete nightmare to try and keep up with what was happening. Excuse any assumptions made.

FC Jazz 0-3 RoPS 

The lowest ranked team left were FC Jazz, currently of the Kakkonen Länsilohko (west), hosted RoPS, conquerors of HJK in the previous round. The rule that lower division teams get home advantage kicked in again, and 812 people turned out for the tie.

Any notions of romance lasted eleven minutes, when Emenike scored the opening goal. He then doubled the lead on 38 minutes. RoPS waited until the 2nd minute of injury time for Aleksandr Kokko to make it 0-3. FC Jazz come back down to earth with a bump, with president Tomi Leivo-Jokimäki joking that he'd have to cancel his flights for the 2015 Europa League final…

Emenike does a Lee Sharpe (photo via Kari Mankonen)

RoPS progress to the semi-final, where they will host IFK Mariehamn in a repeat of the Veikkausliiga season opener (won 1-3 by Mariehamn).

Honka 1-2 IFK Mariehamn 

2012 cup winners Honka crashed out in a close game, witnessed by (just) 526 people. IFK Mariehamn rested star man Petteri Forsell, and after a goalless first half, things woke up.

Diego Assis opened the scoring after 51 minutes from the edge of the area (deflected), but that was equalised within six minutes as Honka's Kastriot Kastrati scored his fourth goal in three games after an impressive one-two. Jamaican striker Dever Orgill capitalised on his recent good form by heading in the winner, 11 minutes from the end.

There were six yellow cards in the match, but the Islanders won't mind. They've earned themselves another 1234km trip (one way) to Rovaniemi.

Highlights of Honka 1-2 IFK Mariehamn


Perhaps the most surprising result of the round was in Vaasa - VPS had made a good start to the season, sitting fourth in the Veikkausliiga and only three points off the top. JJK meanwhile are sat at the bottom, two points from six games, and only scoring in two of those.

Another goalless first half, but the visitors scored twice (on 75 and 84 minutes). Babatunde Wusu got the first from a huge punt upfield, and Patrick Poutiainen secured the win with a late counter-attack. 

Perhaps the cup is offering some relief for JJK. Either way, they have three months now to concentrate on the league, and in the semi-final they will host KuPS.

Highlights of VPS 0-2 JJK
Haka 1-2 KuPS

The only other non-Veikkausliiga side also perished in the last eight, recently relegated Haka pushed 2012 runners-up KuPS to extra time though. The highest attendance of the round (1354) in Valkeakoski saw 120 minutes between two of last year's bottom three.

KuPS started with the recently re-signed Chris James, but there were no goals in the first half. According to Haka's official Twitter feed, Dudu had been caught offside eight times in the first half, but it was he who scored the opener on 64 minutes. But Haka scored in the dying seconds, Venance Zeze with the goal.

Juha Pirinen hurdles Etchu Tabe (photo via Tomi Vuokola)

So to extra-time, but it was KuPS in-form striker Ilja Venäläinen who won it from the penalty spot with ten minutes of the second period remaining, after Dawda Bah was fouled. KuPS travel to JJK in the semi-final.

So the semi-final draw:

RoPS v IFK Mariehamn

Matches take place August 17th 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Free digital magazine subscription! (In association with Zinio)

Our friends at Zinio are offering some of Escape To Suomi's readers the chance to win a year's digital subscription  to one of their fine titles.

The football fans amongst you will be interested in FourFourTwo, World Soccer or Champions Matchday, while also available are titles such as GQ, Viz, Glamour or Vogue.

There are nine subscriptions to win (I'm having one, need to keep up with the Finnish football), so here is how to win:

All you need to do is email me here with the answer to the following question:

Which German football club does former Finland international Sami Hyypiä manage?

Answers must be submitted by 23:59 on Sunday 26th May 2013. Entries must include a full name, email address, and the magazine you'd like a subscription to. One entry per person, winners will be chosen at random and notified via email. Zinio is available on a range of devices, including iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire HD, Android and desktop.

If you're not lucky enough to win, Zinio are also offering a two-year subscription for the price of one on any of their titles (offer ends May 29th), while you can also get 40% off a subscription to a football magazine.

Good luck!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 7 - TPS triumph in the capital

Work is pretty busy at the mo, I haven't had much time to do a full blog. Here is a short, short version.


HJK lost their first home league match since August 2010. Two late goals from TPS (Ristola 83min, Riski 90min) ensured their first win at HJK since 1998. Teemu Tainio was sent off for HJK just before half time.  HJK still top, while TPS move up to third.

Tainio receives his marching orders

Highlights of HJK 0-2 TPS

KuPS 1-0 RoPS

A late penalty from Ilja Venäläinen (87mins) gave KuPS a third consecutive win, RoPS have lost all three away games.

Highlights of KuPS 1-0 RoPS

Honka 3-2 JJK

Honka continued their recent good form, now seven points from nine. They went two nil up through Porokara and Kastrati, before JJK pulled back to 2-2 with goals from van Gelderen and Innanen. Yaghoubi got the winner on 55mins for Honka. Honka are 8th, JJK remain bottom with two points from six matches.

Highlights of Honka 3-2 JJK

MYPA 2-0 Lahti

MYPA end the round in second place on thirteen points, after goals from Gela (19mins) and Pekka Sihvola (55mins). Lahti are 11th, with five points (prior to outcome of appeal re RoPS game).

Highlights of MYPA 2-0 Lahti

IFK Mariehamn 1-0 Jaro

Kris Bright's second league goal, bang on half-time, got Mariehamn back into the groove, they sit sixth with 11 points, but only three behind the leaders. Jaro are ninth, and their decent early form feels a long time ago.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 1-0 Jaro

Inter 0-0 VPS

The only thing of note was a red card for Inter defender Tuomo Turunen in the first half. Inter are fifth, VPS are fourth. If highlights ever emerge, I'll upload them. In the meantime, here are the teams coming out, with some cheerleaders.

The teams coming out

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 6 (part II) - TPS win the derby, HJK leave it late

Part two of our week six round up focuses on Monday night's matches - the Turku derby between TPS and Inter, and Lahti hosting leaders HJK.

TPS 2-1 Inter

The second and third placed teams in 2012 (Inter second, TPS third) had both made indifferent starts to the season. They'd been drawn in the same group of the Liigacup, with a draw and a 5-1 TPS win the outcomes.

 Juho Lähde celebrating the second TPS goal (photo via Vesa-Matti Väärä)

So to the first league meeting of the season. TPS got off to the best possible start, an early goal from Roope Riski was quickly followed by Juho Lähde scoring at the second attempt. 2-0 up after 17 minutes. Inter keeper Bahne kept it at 2-0, before the 'visitors' reduced the deficit just before half-time, Sirbiladze heading in from a corner.

In the second half, Sami Rähmönen received a red card for kicking out at Severi Paajanen, and while both teams had chances to score again, TPS midfielder Wayne Brown saw a poor penalty saved by Bahne.

Sirbiladze has a go (photo via Timo Jerkku)

TPS now have nine points from six matches (three wins, three defeats). Inter have ten points from their six games. TPS travel to Helsinki on Friday, while Inter host VPS.

Highlights of TPS 2-1 Inter

Lahti 0-1 HJK

Despite having mixed expectations at the start of the season, these two sides had also suffered from mixed starts. Lahti's Liigacup win was followed by an administrative error at RoPS, and some dodgy results. HJK had 11 points from five games, but hadn't looked convincing in chucking away a 0-2 lead at Inter, and required poor finishing from Jaro to get a win there.

The visitors made the bold move of leaving Mikael Forssell on the bench, starting with Pohjanpalo, Savage and Zeneli as an attacking three. Lahti's defence looked shaky, the most clear-cut chance came in the first half with Fulham keeper Jesse Joronen (on loan at Lahti) giving a clearance straight to Zeneli, but he and Jolle conspired to mess it up.

Wallen keeps the ball out, with Kari looking

In the second half, Lahti came out with a lot more attacking intent, but wayward finishing and Ville Wallen stood in their way. It was Forssell, who came on for Pohjanpalo on 70mins, who provided the winner, heading in from a well placed corner with 13 minutes left. Fellow sub Nikolai Alho was brought down in the box shortly after, but Joronen saved Forssell's penalty.

 Super-sub Forssell

Lahti had hoped for an attendance of 9000, but the actual gate of just under 4000 was still fairly respectable. They also effectively sit in 11th place, accounting for the forfeit at RoPS, with four points from five matches. HJK are four points clear at the top of the table, with fourteen from six games.

Highlights of Lahti 0-1 HJK

Monday, May 13, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 6 (part I) - MYPA catching up, VPS stumble

Week six of the Veikkausliiga was split over two days (four games Sunday and two on Monday) - and there were plenty of goals to focus on.

IFK Mariehamn 0-4 MYPA

A fact that has seen plenty of airtime recently showed that IFK Mariehamn hadn't lost a home game since the end of the 2011 season. But in three games in 2013, they've now only earned one point and that was down to a late equaliser against JJK.

 Ducking under the ball (photo via Siri Lindén)

MYPA had made a reasonable start to 2013, beating Inter and Honka already. But a home defeat to Jaro on Thursday showed their inconsistency. Without a Europa League campaign to worry about this year, their main focus is on getting back into Europe via league places. Mariehamn meanwhile found out this week that they would be in Europe via the Fair Play rankings.

The visitors only took twenty minutes to take the lead, actually the latest opening goal of Sunday's games. Sasha Anttilainen scored his second goal in two games, and it was all downhill from there for the hosts. Olajide Williams got his first goal of 2013 before half-time, and it was 0-2. After the break, Lody and Sihvola added insult to misery, and Mariehamn were on the end of a 0-4 home defeat.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 0-4 MYPA

Since Pekka Lyyski and Petteri Forsell won the April awards for coach and player of the month, May has seen one point in three games, with just one goal. In England, the awards are seen as a curse, and it'll be interesting to follow the awards in Finland too.

VPS 1-2 KuPS

The KuPS recovery continued in Vaasa, and the difference was a pair of Gambians. KuPS had taken five games to register their first win (a 4-1 win over TPS on Thursday), and this was just as crucial.

 Attacking the ball (photo via Eetu Sillanpää)

VPS had made a surprisingly good start, with ten points from four games. Built on a solid defence, they were caught cold by the visitors. Dawda Bah had been one of the best imports in recent history, with titles at HJK. His time in Germany was ruined by nasty injury, but he broke his 2013 duck in the week, and scored from the edge of the box after 10 minutes. VPS equalised 15 minutes later, Jarno Parikka following in after a Tomi Ameobi shot. But defender Omar Colley won it just before half-time from a corner. Colley has had a mixed start, but was highly rated, and this is more like it.

Highlights of VPS 1-2 KuPS

KuPS now have seven points from their six matches. VPS have ten from five. Suddenly the difference isn't so stark.

RoPS 4-0 JJK

Another side with a shaky start, RoPS returned home with a thumping of bottom club JJK. The visitors had looked decent at Mariehamn, but otherwise limp.

Striking the ball (photo via Raija Suopajärvi)

RoPS started early, twelve minutes lapsed before Antti Okkonen's opener. Niklas Tarvajärvi made it 2-0 on half-time, before Boris Kokko scored twice in the second half, leaving making it 4-0.

Highlights of RoPS 4-0 JJK

JJK remain rooted at the bottom, already three points behind 11th placed Honka. RoPS have done fairly well, and are looking like they will need plenty of home points.

Jaro 2-2 Honka

A fiesty game between two sides with mixed starts - four goals (one an own goal), a red card, and a rather saccharine Mother's Day appeal.

A happy Jaro bench (photo via

Kastriot Kastrati scored twice for Honka, both crucial. The first opened the scoring after 14 minutes, before a Henri Aalto own goal levelled it on 35mins. Markus Kronholm gave Jaro the lead in the second half, before Jonas Emet received two quick bookings (and then the red). Kastrati scored again with 13 minutes remaining, and it ended 2-2.

Highlights of Jaro 2-2 Honka

Jaro have made a good start, but keep conceding. They have seven points from five matches. Honka's new players are slowly gelling together, building up to their Europa League campaign. They have five points from six matches.

Part two of the round-up (featuring TPS v Inter and Lahti v HJK is coming soon).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 5 - KuPS win at last, VPS rise on Ascension Day

Thursday in Finland was helatorstai (Ascension Day), so we got a bonus round of fixtures this week - all twelve teams were in action, so here's a quick summary... It's shorter than the usual, but hopefully we'll be back to normal next week.

KuPS 4-1 TPS

KuPS finally got their first win, and they did it in style. Coach Esa Pekonen was under extreme pressure after their awful start, but it was TPS who started quickest, Mika Ääritalo with a goal after 2 mins. KuPS forward Ilja Venäläinen was the difference, with the first league hat-trick of the season, goals in the 26, 40 and 59th minutes. Gambian Dawda Bah also scored his first goal since his return to Finland.

Gambians Colley and Bah celebrate (photo via Vartaloharhautus)

Highlights of KuPS 4-1 TPS

KuPS have 4 points from their five games, while TPS have now lost 3 times already, and have 6 points.


VPS remain the surprise in the upper half of the table, collecting another win. It was substitute Jordan Seabrook with the goal on 71 minutes, and amazingly leaves VPS second, having only conceded one goal so far. JJK have only picked up 2 draws from their opening four games, and their only two goals came in the draw at IFK Mariehamn.

Inter 2-0 Lahti

Inter's return to form continued with another win, this time against Lahti. Henri Lehtonen opened the scoring just after the hour, his second goal in three games. New signing Tamas Gruborovics has had a promising start since coming from JJK, and scored his first Inter goal to seal the win after 75mins. Fulham's on loan keeper conceded his first goals for Lahti.

 Inter old-boy Joni Aho tackling Lehtonen (photo via Ilta-Sanomat)

Inter are third in the table, with 10 points from their first five games. Lahti have four points from four games (accounting for the RoPS match).

Highlights of Inter 2-0 Lahti
Honka 2-0 RoPS

Honka's won their first league match at the fifth attempt (and scored their first goals), against a RoPS side who look like their away form could prove crucial. Jussi Vasara opened the scoring just after the hour, the ball eventually dropping to him inside the box (Faith Obilor got the last touch). A ridiculously blind backpass from RoPS defender Ndukaku gave Nnaemeka Anyamele virtually an open goal.

Honka rise from the bottom of the table, and have four points from five games. RoPS have six points (including those awarded for the game v Lahti).

Highlights of Honka 2-0 RoPS

HJK 0-0 IFK Mariehamn

In a match which opened by remembering HJK legend Kai Pahlman, the highest attendance of the season so far saw of the form teams try hard, but there were no goals. IFK Mariehamn had a goal disallowed in the first half for offside, and their tactic of letting (April Player of the Month) Petteri Forsell shoot from 30 yards out came close to a goal. HJK created a few chances of their own, but looked laboured.

HJK remain top with 11 points from five matches, while Mariehamn are fourth, with 8 points from five games.

Highlights of HJK 0-0 IFK Mariehamn

MYPA 1-2 Jaro

Jaro were tipped by most to be relegated this year, but sit in the top half of the table after this good win at MYPA. Jonas Emet scored after 14 minutes, and hot prospect Simon Skrabb doubled the lead on 38. The hosts pulled one back just before half time, Sasha Anttilainen scoring, but Jaro saw the game out. In their defeats to Inter and HJK, they created plenty but came away with nothing.

Jaro are sixth, with 6 points from four games, scoring and conceding six goals. MYPA are fifth, with 7 points from five matches.

Highlights of MYPA 1-2 Jaro

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 4 - KuPS lose (again), return of the (goal) king

All twelve Veikkausliiga clubs were in action on Sunday, with the six matches kicking off at the same time. But there was no end of season feel, things have only just begun... So here are the games, broken down individually. I'm still playing about with the format - feedback welcome.

FC Lahti 1-0 KuPS

Lahti made a shock announcement on Friday evening, with the loan signing of Fulham's U21 goalkeeper Jesse Joronen. Jesse will be at Lahti for three months, and it can only be a good thing for all parties that he'll finally be getting some regular senior football. His spell with the Finland squad in Gijon will only have whetted the appetite.

 Dawda Bah is surrounded (photo via Katja Luoma/ESS)

So his debut match was against KuPS, who've already struggled so far in 2013. Chants of "Pekonen Out" were heard at their home defeat to IFK Mariehamn last week, but only ten days after the same fixture in the cup yielded a 1-2 win to the visitors, it was all change.

Joronen (right) happy after the game (photo via FC Lahti on Twitter)

It was a solitary goal from Jussi Länsitalo that won it for Lahti, revenge for the Suomen Cup win for KuPS ten days earlier. He had been (unwittingly) the villain, he was suspended when he came off the bench at RoPS, costing Lahti two points as their 1-1 draw became a 3-0 defeat. He beat the offside trap, and when one-on-one with the keeper, calmly slotted it into the far corner.

KuPS did create chances, and Joronen did well on his debut. National team coach Mixu Paatelainen was happy with the move, and it'll be interesting tp see what happens come August, when the English Premier League resumes.

The story is KuPS being in danger, Esa Pekonen's job is under threat, and one point from four games is relegation form. Omar Colley was suspended, Dawda Bah has done little. KuPS and Honka (see below) will be fighting for the wooden spoon if this continues.

Highlights of Lahti 1-0 KuPS

IFK Mariehamn 1-2 FC Inter

We've made plenty of noise about Inter's shoddy start to 2013, a rotten Liigacup followed by defeat to MYPA. But last year's runners-up have shown signs of life - a hard fought home victory over Jaro was followed by a midweek recovery against the champions (0-2 at half time, ended 2-2). But this was another challenge, a trip to an IFK Mariehamn team who had started surprisingly well, inspired by the returning Petteri Forsell.

Babacar Diallo standing tall (photo via Peter Eriksson)

Mariehamn went through the whole of 2012 without a home defeat, but have now opened their home account for 2013 with a draw (to JJK) and a defeat. Inter took the lead on the half hour through Frenchman Guy Gnabouyou's first goal of the season. Going into the half time break ahead, Inter had hopes - but it was the on-loan Forsell who broughty parity. An equalising goal, his third league goal of the season, gave Mariehamn a fighting chance of saving their home record.

As we mentioned in the review of Inter 2-2 HJK, 2012's league top scorer Irakli Sirbiladze has looked a shadow of his former self, characterised by a shocking miss at MYPA. But he discovered his scoring touch when needed, and he scored an 89th minute winner which took the points back to Turku. Inter are slowly coming back into form, and sit on seven points (three behind HJK).

Meanwhile the Islanders also sit on seven, but this goes down as an opportunity lost. They appear to be relying heavily on Forsell, who returns to Turkey in August. Robin Eriksson left the club in the week, a bold move which clearly didn't work.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 1-2 FC Inter

FF Jaro 2-3 HJK

The weekend's televised match (on Urho so I could actually watch it) provided the most goals, including the goal of the season so far. HJK again paired Mikael Forssell with Joel Pohjanpalo, while Demba Savage also returned to the starting XI. Jaro had made several chances at Inter but came away with nothing, and their return to their home stadium unfortunately saw a familiar pattern.

 Jonke challenges (photo via

Jaro made plenty of chances, and an unusually shaky Ville Wallen didn't inspire much confidence. Banner and Jonke missed decent chances, before Pohjanpalo flicked on a Sumusalo cross into the path of an unmarked Savage, who scored his second goal of the season with just over half an hour gone.

Before half-time, Jaro's Henrik Helmke scored an absolute blinder - Wallen pushing a shot out of the area, but Helmke struck it first time from 22 metres out, the outside of his right boot sending the ball into the top corner of the net. Woof, and 1-1 at half-time. But it didn't take long for HJK to re-take the lead, Erfan Zeneli scoring his third goal in three games from a heavily deflected free kick (47mins), then Savage got his second with 74 played, unmarked again after good work by Zeneli.

With two minutes remaining, Kullström made it interesting by scoring after a Jaro corner, but the champions saw it out. Five goals, six yellow cards, and HJK move clear at the top. Jaro have made plenty of chances in their games against HJK and Inter, but have one win in three games and sit ninth. HJK have ten points from their four matches, and have a three point lead already.

Highlights of Jaro 2-3 HJK

VPS 3-1 RoPS

RoPS finally faced an away game after three consecutive home matches, and the long trip from Rovaniemi to Vaasa led to them coming away with nothing, despite an early lead. Trinidadian Ataullah Guerra scored his first league goal in Finland after just seven minutes, a testament to his mental strength after a tough time at home. It was a stunning goal as well, shrugging off a couple of challenges, then shooting into the top corner from 25 metres out.

Second placed VPS lead the way (photo via Lapin Kansa)

But VPS continued their promising start to the season. One goal in two games put the spotlight on the forwards. Step forward Tomi Ameobi, brother of Newcastle United's Shola and Sammy, to score after 17 minutes by heading in a Seabrook cross. But it was Tony Björk who saw VPS over the line - two second half goals (the second a penalty after a hefty foul in the box) secured the three points, and the unlikely position of second, three points behind HJK with a game in hand. 

Highlights of VPS 3-1 RoPS


TPS finally returned home to the Veritas Stadium, after playing their opening two home games on municipal artificial pitches. Nearly 4000 people turned out to greet them, in the second highest attendance of the year so far.

The confidence came from a 1-0 win, courtesy of a penalty by Wayne Brown, his first goal since returning to the club. A nasty looking injury caused midfielder Duarte Tammilehto to be stretchered off, but he made his own way home... TPS improving (and have confirmed Roope Riski's signing for the season), while JJK haven't made the start they'd like.

Tammilehto hobbles away (image via IltaSanomat)

Highlights of TPS 1-0 JJK

MYPA 1-0 FC Honka

Honka's wretched start to 2013 continued at MYPA. Financial problems blighted the club over winter, with the loss of two key players. Despite a Suomen Cup in the trophy cabinet, and a Europa League place, they hadn't scored in any of their first three matches, and only earned a point at VPS in a proper bore draw.

Eighty minutes passed before MYPA's Pekka Sihvola popped up with the winner, after good skill and a low cross by Soiri. Prior to that, Honka's Jussi Vasara had a chance to give the visitors a lead, but his effort was saved at the second attempt by MYPA keeper Pyhäranta.

Honka are missing the injured Tim Väyrynen badly, and are getting little creativity elsewhere. Youness Rahimi had a trial with PSV Eindhoven this week, so it appears the vultures are circling (Väyrynen almost moved to Dutch club Heracles as well).

Highlights of MYPA 1-0 Honka

Thursday, May 02, 2013

FC Inter 2-2 HJK - re-arranged from week 1

In a fixture that was due to be played on the opening weekend of the season, we finally got to see the clash between 2012's top two. Silver medalists Inter hosted champions HJK on Thursday evening, in front of 2050 paying customers (and those at the top of the Vappu ferris wheel).

Send in the clowns (photo via Jaakko Stenroos)

Both teams won their Monday night fixtures, and made a handful of changes. Inter brought in Turunen and Bouwman, and HJK brought in Joel Pohjanpalo up front for Demba Savage.

HJK stormed out of the blocks, 'Jolle' shooting just wide, and Erfan Zeneli then scoring after just six minutes - after some lax defending, he picked up the ball outside the box, and swerved it into the far corner. Pohjanpalo, named by In Bed With Maradona as one of the top 100 young players for 2013, opened his account for the season by picking up the ball just inside the Inter half, then slipping it past Inter keeper Bahne. 43 minutes in, and the champions were leading 2-0.

Inter coach Job Dragtsma, who'd been sent to the stands in the opening game for kicking a bottle, must have brought that energy into his half-time team talk. First of all, Babacar Diallo pulled it back to 1-2 after 63 minutes, heading in the first goal that HJK had conceded this season. HJK goalie Wallen will be disappointed to be beaten to the ball so easily...

 Diallo heads in to make it 1-2 (photo via

Inter captain Henri Lehtonen equalised seven minutes later, assisted by Tamas Gruborovics. His run from deep was similar to Pohjanpalo's, and the result was the same. The match ended 2-2, Inter will feel like it's a point won, HJK two points lost. Tamas said that they were asleep in the first half...

 Inter celebrate Lehtonen's equaliser (photo via Turun Sanomat)

The result leaves HJK top of the Veikkausliiga after three games on seven points, ahead of IFK Mariehamn on goal difference. Inter sit fourth on four points, pending confirmation that RoPS v Lahti will be credited as a 3-0 win to RoPS (the game ended 1-1, but Lahti fielded a suspended player).

Inter are slowly growing into their season, after a wretched pre-season and losing their opening match to MYPA. Gruborovics is looking like he's becoming the creative hub of the side, although 2012 maalikuningas Irakli Sirbiladze is looking lost.

 Highlights of Inter 2-2 HJK

HJK haven't started badly, seven points from nine is a decent start. Starting with an all-Finnish side is a good sign, and they have two months before the European campaign begins. The true test of this side will be in the summer. Last year, defeats to Celtic and Athletic Bilbao weighed heavy. The goal of a group stage, in either tournament, would be the real achievement.

At the weekend, HJK travel to Jaro, and Inter are at IFK Mariehamn. Come back next week for a full review of week four.