Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 25 - Rafael on target again

A full round of fixtures this weekend, but plenty still to play for with eight sets of fixtures remaining. The gap between second and third is now pretty huge, while relegation for one team is now surely a formality...

JJK 2-3 Lahti

Was this the match that condemned JJK to relegation? If so, it also showed the improvement Lahti have made under Juha Malinen as they tore into a 0-3 lead inside half an hour, all three goals in nine minutes. Rafael (19'), Hietanen (25') and a Rafael penalty (28') gave the hosts a huge mountain to climb.

Lahti celebrate their second goal (photo via KSML)

Mikko Manninen scored after 31mins, and a 78th minute Eero Markkanen goal made the end interesting, but they'd left it too late. Rafael jumped to second in the all time Veikkausliiga scoring list with 115, and clear at the top of this season's list with 11 goals. Lahti have won 8 of their last 13 league matches, while JJK have two league wins in 13.

Highlights are available here, via the KSML website.

JJK are now ten points adrift of 11th placed Inter, with 19 points from 25 matches. Lahti are tenth, with thirty points from 25 games - only six points behind third...

Honka 3-0 VPS

Meanwhile at the top... Leaders Honka may have expected a tougher game against the team in third place - but VPS had only won two matches in nine games, and barely threatened Honka, despite having Steven Morrissey in the starting line-up.

No panic on the pitch at Tapiola due to Morrissey (photo via Aleksi Tuomola)

Honka's opener came from Jussi Vasara just before half-time (43'), after some sustained pressure on the VPS goal. But they left it late to add more goals, a deflected effort from Porokara (85') and an injury time penalty from Äijälä.

Highlights of Honka 3-0 VPS

Honka still lead the championship, with 49 points from 25 games, one point ahead of HJK (who have a game in hand). VPS have 36 points from 25 matches, and are in third place.

KuPS 3-2 IFK Mariehamn

Both teams had been active in the transfer market recently, and KuPS edged a cracker. One-time Finnish international Juha Hakola scored from a tight angle nine minutes in (via a hefty deflection from Patrick Byskata), giving KuPS the lead, before Mariehamn new boys Solignac and Ibrahim made it 1-2 to Mariehamn. An Ilja Venäläinen penalty (67') and a Dudu winner (70') won the match for KuPS. Mariehamn's new English defender Darren Purse received a straight red card in injury time for a hefty challenge, and a bit of elbow.

Ibrahim in action

Highlights of KuPS 3-2 IFK Mariehamn

KuPS are seventh in the league, with 31 points from 25 games. IFK Mariehamn are fourth, with 35 points from 25 matches.


HJK kept up the pressure on Honka with a hard-fought win over MYPA. HJK were made to fight hard for the three points, and opened the scoring through a Mattila penalty on 42mins, after Zeneli had been fouled. Anttilainen equalised on the hour, from an acute angle. Rasmus Schüller scored the winner on 76mins, shooting from the edge of the box.

Highlights of HJK 2-1 MYPA

HJK remain second, 48 points from 24 games, one game in hand over Honka. MYPA are sixth, with 33 points from 24 games - they play TPS on Wednesday.

RoPS 1-1 TPS

A TPS squad struggling with injuries made the long trip north, and came away with a point. Petteri Pennanen's penalty after 33 mins gave TPS the lead, but Aleksandr Kokko's sixth goal of the season before half time saved a point.

Kokko celebrates his equaliser
Highlights of RoPS 1-1 TPS

RoPS are ninth, 31 points from 25 games. TPS are eighth, with 31 points from 23 games, they play MYPA on Wednesday.

Inter 1-0 Jaro

Monday night's game saw struggling Inter claim a rare win over a Jaro side who were looking to steal a march in the race for third. Jaro keeper Jesse Ost had his usual sterling performance in goal, but was assisted by the wayward shooting of Inter forward Guy Gnabouyou.

Guy prepared to misfire again

Inter waited until the 85th minute before breaking the deadlock - substitute Irakli Sirbiladze benefitted from some insane Jaro defending, and slotting home to seal three valuable points. Jaro meanwhile now have no win in five.

Highlights of Inter 1-0 Jaro

Inter remain eleventh, with 29 points from 25 games - ten points clear of bottom club JJK. Jaro are fifth, with 34 points from 25 matches.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 24 (part two) - JJK lose again

These are just the highlights, scorers and positions... Some may prefer this!

IFK Mariehamn 4-1 JJK

Jani Lyyski (4mins), Luis Solignac (8mins, 90mins, both on his debut) and Charlie Trafford (88mins) for Mariehamn - Mikko Innanen (52mins) for JJK.

Photo removed at request of owner

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 4-1 JJK

Mariehamn are up to fourth, 35 points from 24 games. JJK remain bottom, 19 points from 24 games, seven points adrift of 11th placed Inter.

Lahti 2-3 RoPS

Lahti took the lead through Nganbe Nganbe (12'), equalised by Emineke Mbachu (32'). Rafael scored (37). Loorents Hertsi was sent off for an off-the-ball incident on 40mins, before Okkonen went up the other end and scored, straight through Lahti keeper Tuomi's legs (42'). Nicholas Otaru score the winner on 42'.

Highlights of Lahti 2-3 RoPS

Lahti are in tenth place, 27 points from 24 games. RoPS are a healthy eighth, with 30 points from 24 matches.

Jaro 2-2 KuPS

After a goalless first half, KuPS scored twice through Purje (47') and Savolainen (55'). Jaro then salvagaed a point, after goals from Wargh (59') and Winchester (86').

Highlights of Jaro 2-1 RoPS

Jaro are fifth, 34 points from 24 games. KuPS are ninth, with 28 points from 24 matches.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 24 (part one) - HJK win the big one

Due to Saturday's Suomen Cup semi-finals, this round of games was spread between Sunday and Wednesday. I'll do a short round up of Wednesday's matches afterwards.

HJK 4-2 Honka

It was the most anticipated match of the season, the first five-figure attendance in years, and surprisingly, a great game to go with it.

Happy Lod

A third minute goal from Robin Lod started proceedings, good timing as my Urho stream had only just started working. 10,305 people had squeezed into the Sonera Stadion, and most of them will have been happy. Alho's deep cross met Demba Savage, who headed straight at Honka keeper Viitala, but he could only push it straight back to Lod, who had a virtually open goal from five yards. Several yellow cards later, the game reached half-time at 1-0 to HJK, although both teams had chances.

Whatever Honka coach Mika Lekhosuo said at the break clearly worked as Honka flew out of the blocks. Tim Väyrynen, who'd scored a hat-trick for Finland U21s in the week, lofted a long ball over Ville Wallen, although Tapio Heikkila didn't cover himself in glory, letting the ball bounce in before trying to punch the ball away... Just before the hour, Honka's central defenders combined - Meite headed a corner against the bar, before Gideon Baah's overhead kick from the rebound flew in the goal.

Sad Baah

Ten minutes later, Teemu Tainio rose to head in a corner to make it 2-2 - before the Lod show continued - turning in a cross at the near post on 79 minutes, and two minutes later sprinting through the Honka defence to complete his hat-trick. The match ended 4-2, and it was a great advert for Finnish football. The challenge now is to build on this, for other clubs as well. Admittedly HJK do have a full-time award winning marketing professional, but hopefully this will inspire the others.

Lod with Ridge Forrester (Mrs ETS had to explain it to me)

Lod received his hat-trick hat (and man of the match award) from US TV actor Ronn Moss, famous for his role as Ridge Forrester in the Bold and the Beautiful... We never really got that show in the UK, but Mrs ETS explained that when it launched in Finland in the 90s, it was quite the phenomenon. He said he's doing a secret project in Helsinki, so we'll have to wait and see...

Highlights of HJK 4-2 Honka

HJK are still second in the table, but have closed the gap to Honka to just one point, with 45 points from 23 games. Honka are first with 46 points from 24 games (one more game played than HJK). HJK's game in hand is against TPS in September.


Midfielder Wayne Brown described it as a rugby match. It wasn't going to be pretty, neither team have contributed many open games this year. But it was a crucial match in the race for a bronze medal (and Europa League place), with the top two so far ahead.

Ameobi keeping an eye on the ball

Roope Riski opened the scoring after 26 minutes, nipping in at the back post. But Patrik Lomski equalised ten minutes into the second half (although TPS keeper Lehtovaara should have done better). Jani Tanska scored the winner with seven minutes left, leaping to nod in another cross. Three points in the bag for TPS, while VPS's poor form continues (2 wins in 9).

Highlights of TPS 2-1 VPS

The result leaves TPS in seventh place with 30 points from 22 games, albeit 2 games in hand on most teams around them. VPS are still third, with 36 points from 24 matches, nine points behind second-placed HJK.

MYPA 1-1 Inter

Like last year, MYPA have gone about their business quietly, not really challenging for anything but winning enough points to keep in the top half. But they'll view this as points lost against a drab Inter team who can barely buy a win (one win in fifteen league games). MYPA won a penalty after 24 minutes after Soiri was fouled by Gruborovics, converted by Pekka Sihvola (who else?), but Inter levelled just five minutes later through Guy Gnabouyou.

Yannick Salmon has a pop

Highlights of MYPA 1-1 Inter

MYPA are fifth, with 33 points from 23 matches. Inter are eleventh, 26 points from 24 games. I'll upload highlights when I see them...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Arsenal 3-1 Manchester City - thoughts (and photos)

After all the hype, all the money, all the dissent... Arsenal won their final pre-season friendly against Manchester City by three goals to one. The game was obviously still pre-season, nothing particularly meaty or controversial. The match was entertaining, with a few sideshows, and most of the attendees will have gone home happy.

At the final whistle

I'd started the day early, breakfasting at a BBQ diner in an abattoir in Kallio, with a Karhu of course. Shortly after the real boozing began, with €2.80 beers going down a storm. After a spot of bar-hopping, we found that the Olympiastadion had a fan area open, with plenty of bars, live music and people... At that point it was obvious that there were a lot more Arsenal shirts than Man City - the clear tone for the evening.

There was a good atmosphere, but with no amount of cringe. In the seats, under the big screen in the Pohjoiskaarre (north end), the teams came out... To the theme tune from Superman. Oh dear. From where I was, there were red and white shirts everywhere, and plenty of noise. Some of the older Arsenal chants were sung, in heavy Finnish accents. The jerseys had Wilshere and Cazorla on the back, while even Mrs ETS donned a 1970s home shirt.

Arsenal's early goal helped proceedings, Theo Walcott beating Joe Hart after Ramsey's great pass. It gave the crowd some momentum and kept the few City fans quiet. By half-time, everyone was thirsty for a beer, and although the option was Carlsberg, they did good business at €7 a pint. In the second half, goals from Ramsey and Giroud were lapped up, while Negredo's goal pointed out where the blue fans were (there weren't many).

Cameo appearances from Samir Nasri (booed heavily) and former Finland U21 international Carl Jenkinson added some more pantomime to the proceedings before the final whistle. The photo below will help cheer up any Gooner.

At the final whistle, the customary presentations were made on the pitch, to some music from Rocky IV... Walcott won man of the match, and the players trudged off - but there was time for Jenkinson to do a lap of honour before heading off. Carl had spoken to the Arsenal website about his difficult decision in choosing England, but was warmly cheered by the spectators. He threw his shirt into the crowd, and seemed pretty moved...

The aftermath of the game revealed some of the feeling in Finland - an attendance of over 39000 football fans who could have been elsewhere, especially as the much-hyped SuperMatsi in Jyväskylä got JJK's second lowest attendance of the year. There were even noises in HS that Finland would love to host a 39th game, if the Premier League ever rebooted that idea (surely not).

For me, it was nice to see my team in Finland, and a nice way to spend a weekend. There were a few familiar faces, and nice to catch up with friends and family. I was asked if I'd fly over just for Finnish matches, and of course I would - not this year though, I've seen four matches in Finland in the last 9 weeks and I'm skint.

Who's that handsome chap in the shades at the top of the group shot?

A nice weekend. Hopefully Arsenal will be back for real next time. Preferably in Kuopio!

In case you forgot

Highlights of Arsenal 3-1 Manchester City

Veikkausliiga week 23 - Honka extend lead

Honka 2-1 TPS

Three great goals were reward for the Honka fans, albeit the TPS goal was ably assisted by one of their own in real blooper style. A ninth minute free kick from Moshtagh Yaghoubi set a high standard, flying into the top corner.


On the half hour, Tim Väyrynen's square ball in his own half found TPS midfielder Wayne Brown in lots of space, and he fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the area to equalise. Six minutes later, Ilari Äijälä's first league goal of 2013 sealed the points for Honka, shooting past Lehtovaara. All great goals, but no joy for TPS.

Highlights of Honka 2-1 TPS

Honka remain top, with 46 points from 23 games, a lead of four points over HJK. TPS are seventh, with 27 points from 21 matches.

Inter 1-1 HJK

Inter have been in rotten form all year, and without a league win since May. HJK have only won 2 of their last 6 away league matches. HJK virtually camped in the Inter half, plenty of possession but little penetration. They waited until the 89th minute to score, Demba Savage popping up after some neat inter-play from Pohjanpalo and Sorsa.

Happy Juuso (photo via Jane Iltanen)

But as they started to think of a vital win, Inter's Juuso Hämäläinen headed in an equaliser in stoppage time. A crucial point for Inter, and a big dent for HJK.

Highlights of Inter 1-1 HJK

Inter are 11th, with 25 points from 23 games. HJK are second, with 42 points from 22 matches, four points behind Honka.

VPS 3-1 Lahti

After another poor run, VPS welcomed back former striker Steven Morrissey with a good win, but the Jamaican wasn't the star - it was American winger Jordan Seabrook. A 14th minute goal from Rafael (his 8th of the season) gave Lahti the lead, but Lomski, then a brace from Seabrook near the end of each half made it look comfortable. A 30-minute cameo from Morrissey was very welcome for the fans who wrote an open letter begging him to return.

Highlights of VPS 3-1 Lahti

VPS return to third place, with 36 points from 23 games (six behind HJK). Lahti are 10th, with 27 points from 23 games.

RoPS 0-2 IFK Mariehamn

Another epic trip for Mariehamn (they played the same fixture on opening day, which ended 1-3 to the guests) - and they had new faces in tow. English centre-back Darren Purse and midfielder Josef Ibrahim went straight into the starting XI - and it was Ibrahim who scored the second goal (39mins) after Jani Lyyski had opened the scoring ten minutes earlier.

Highlights of RoPS 0-2 IFK Mariehamn

RoPS had been relying on good home form to keep them up - but they now only have one win in six. They are ninth, with 27 points from 23 matches. Mariehamn are sixth, with 32 points from 23 games.


Sunday's early match saw another away win for MYPA, to keep in the hunt for third place. KuPS now have four games without a win. MYPA's goals came from lashing finishes from Sasha Anttilainen (23') and Xhevdet Gela (89'). KuPS will have to pick themselves up for Saturday's Suomen Cup semi-final against JJK.

Highlights of KuPS 0-2 MYPA

MYPA are fifth, 32 points from 23 matches. KuPS are eighth, with 27 points from 23 games.

JJK 0-0 Jaro

On the day the English clubs came to Finland, this match was billed as 'Super Matsi'. Surrounded with a day of fan involvement and action, to both raise the profile of Finnish football and raise some much needed money for the hosts. 2390 souls paid to get in, fewer than any of their last three home league matches.

Manninen winning the hair competition (photo via Sami Saarenpää)

The match itself was uneventful. No goals, three yellows for the guests, and more ground lost for JJK, while Jaro only sat in third for 24 hours.

Highlights of JJK 0-0 Jaro

JJK remain in twelvth (last) place, with nineteen points from 23 matches. Jaro are fourth, with 33 points from 23 games.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Arsenal v Man City aka "Super Match" - some thoughts

This Saturday sees a friendly between English clubs Arsenal and Manchester City - billed in Finland as "Super Match". Now there is nothing to play for in theory, for both clubs it's the last pre-season friendly and the end to a summer of several miles covering the US and Asia.

The clubs played prior to last season as well, in Beijing, which saw City win 2-0. Arsenal even pandered to their prospective sponsors and fans by wearing their shirt sponsor Emirates in Chinese script. This year will be a chance for City fans to see their new signings Navas, Jovetic and Negredo, while Finland-based Gunners supporters can see, er, part Finn and baseball cap designer Carl Jenkinsn.

Now the match has received huge publicity in Finland, but not all for the right reasons. There are huge sums involved in hosting the game, which are of course covered by some outlandish ticket prices. Other than a handful of tickets available at £30, the majority of tickets in the Arsenal end went for £60 - almost as much as a ticket to watch a category A game at the Emirates.

Another issue is about why should it be a match between two English sides? Surely it would be more interesting for Arsenal (for example) to play a Finnish club? Despite the partisan nature, it would at least be more of a novelty to see them take on HJK or Honka for example, or even make it an exhibition by fielding a team of Veikkausliiga players.

I'll admit I'm not helping the issue by flying over from London to watch the match, but then I've got an Arsenal season ticket and I've seen Arsenal play all over Europe - I had always said I'd love to see Arsenal in Finland, but I'd hoped it'd be in the Champions League.

The other point of note is the impact on domestic Finnish football. This weekend sees a full round of matches, and Saturday sees the Veikkausliiga match between JJK and Jaro, billed as "Super Matsi". It promises to be well attended, with various other fan-led activities taking place in Jyväskylä. Friend of the blog Egan Richardson wrote about it for Supporters Direct, read here.

Thursday also saw JJK release a video they made, highlighting the impact of Super Match on Finnish football - would the 36,000 odd attendees go and see any of the league matches at the weekend? Do the English clubs need the money?

I appreciate the fact that if it wasn't Arsenal playing, I'd probably be slating the Super Match, and cursing the teams involved. Having only just been to Finland (in June), to fly back so quick is both expensive and pretty inconvenient - maybe I should save my money and go to the Champions League play-off instead?

I'll be in Helsinki on Saturday (drinking in Kallio before the game), cheering on my team. Hopefully it won't do too much damage to the league and culture I've come to call my own...

Plus I hate Carlsberg.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 22 - Late Lahti

I spent the weekend in Manchester, watching cricket. Unfortunately I missed Saturday's match, so this is a bit of a rush job. Becoming a theme really! Anyway, a quick re-cap. I'll skip over the goalless draws...

TPS 1-2 Lahti

Monday night's clash was important for both sides - TPS were losing touch with the top, deep in the middle pack with games in hand. Lahti needed to keep up their recent good form, and to create space between themselves and JJK.

Spot the ball (photo via TS)

Lahti took the lead early, Loorents Hertsi's third goal in four games with just seven minutes gone. TPS waited until deep into the second half, Wayne Brown equalising with fifteen minutes left. It was the second minute of injury time when Markus Joenmäki popped up to win it. TPS will also be rueing the loss of Kennedy Eriba, potentially out for the season after a nasty ankle injury.

Highlights of TPS 1-2 Lahti

TPS drop to eighth place in the table, with 27 points from 20 games. Lahti overtake Inter and are in tenth, also with 27 points from their 22 matches.

VPS 2-2 IFK Mariehamn

Another late show was crucial, and VPS will be kicking themselves. They'd got themselves a 2-0 lead after two goals from Tomi Ameobi, and all looked safe for a rare three points. But Mariehamn were inspired by the returning Petteri Forsell, looking vibrant after a long lay-off, and goals from Mattias Wiklöf (80') and Forsell (89') secured a valuable point.

Highlights of VPS 2-2 IFK Mariehamn

VPS remain in third place, with 33 points from 22 matches. Mariehamn are sixth, 29 points from 22 games.


During a difficult time off the pitch, JJK could sorely use three points in their bid to avoid the drop. A home tie against a MYPA side in poor form looked like an ideal time - but this was a chasing. A 39th minute goal from Ville Salmikivi set the tone, and two quick goals from Pekka Sihvola (56') and Jonathon Okafor (59') sealed it. Another red card for the hosts, this time Anssi Viren, ensured a wretched day.

Highlights of the game can be seen here, via the KSML website.

JJK remain bottom, 18 points from 22 games, six points adrift of the team above them. MYPA are fifth, 29 points from 21 games.

KuPS 0-0 HJK

A record (official) crowd of 4379 for KuPS greeted HJK - unfortunately the club won't be relying on word of mouth for future ticket sales. An uninspiring match, committed but with few chances, and a point that does little for either side.

Highlights of KuPS 0-0 HJK

KuPS are sixth, with 27 points from 22 matches. HJK are second, 41 matches from 21 games, two points behind Honka.

Honka 0-0 Inter

Two red cards, plenty of yellows, not much for the attending scouts (there have been a few at Honka this season), and again a stalemate, but with the referee having a starring role. Honka missed a chance to extend their lead, while Inter's season continues to limp with nothing to show - one league win in 15 games with six goals scored in those.

Highlights of Honka 0-0 Inter

Honka remain top, with 43 points from 22 matches. Inter are eleventh, with 24 points from 22 games.

RoPS 0-0 Jaro

There are rarely goals in Rovaniemi. Jaro have been in good form. One was bound to win out - and it was a third goalless draw in five home matches for RoPS. Jaro are struggling with injuries, but will look at a missed chance.

Highlights of RoPS 0-0 Jaro

RoPS are ninth, 27 points from 22 games. Jaro are fourth, 32 points from 22 matches.