Monday, September 30, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 30 - Honka choke, HJK almost there

I'm not in a position to actually write anything this week, other than there were four games (two were postponed due to the Suomen Cup final), lots of goals and the videos do the talking. I promise I'll do some proper bits soon, probably after the season's end... Enjoy.

VPS 1-1 HJK


Lahti 5-2 Jaro


IFK Mariehamn 3-2 Honka


TPS 2-1 MYPA

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 29 - Lahti catching up

A matchweek spread from Friday to Monday - very nice. Quick summary of all six matches here. Apologies for taking so long, but I got Grand Theft Auto 5, and despite my hints, I still have no way of watching Kutonen games in the UK.

MYPA 0-1 Lahti

One manager taking over from another - with Juha Malinen leaving Lahti to take over at RoPS, MYPA coach Toni Korkeakunnas has agreed to take over at Lahti for 2014. Perhaps there's no better way to please his new masters by giving them a shot at a top half finish (with an extra home match that comes with it).

Diving in (photo via Lukas Pearsall)

 The travelling Lahti fans braving the weather (photo via Lukas Pearsall)

The only goal came in the 65th minute, Jean Ngambe Ngambe slotting home from close range through a sea of legs. It meant that Lahti's recent run of form in the last three months is P17 W11 L6. MYPA meanwhile are falling away from a European place, with only the Fair Play spot to hope for (they're currently second behind HJK). Their new manager will have their work cut out.

Highlights of MYPA 0-1 Lahti

MYPA are fifth, with 40 points from 29 games. Lahti are sixth, with 39 points from 29 matches.

Honka 3-3 JJK

Monday night's game was key at both ends of the table - Honka needed a win to keep up with HJK (see below), while time was running out for JJK at the bottom of the table. Honka coasted into a 2-0 half-time lead, a neat finish from Tim Väyrynen (20') followed by the same man converting a penalty after Yaghoubi was fouled, despite the theatrical fall (37').

Tim Väyrynen (r) challenging Hanslian

Whatever was said in the JJK dressing room worked, as they fired in three goals, from Hilska (60'), a splendid effort from Rob Taylor (66') and Virtanen (80'). It needed Väyrynen's stunning curled hat-trick goal to salvage a point in the 94th minute, worthy of taking him to top of the scorer charts, but probably in vain with HJK's grip on the title strengthening.

Highlights of Honka 3-3 JJK

Honka are second, with 55 points from 29 games, five behind HJK (who have a game in hand). JJK are still bottom, with 22 points from 29 matches, nine adrift of safety with four games to play.

HJK 3-1 TPS

Just like last year, despite a close challenger, they fall away and HJK head to victory. They made this victory awkward - TPS actually took the lead, a superb counter-attack finished by Lähde on 24mins. But two goals from an unlikely source restored the balance - Valtteri Moren headed in two Zeneli set pieces (26' and 46') to make it 2-1, before a great cross from Alho invited a near-post strike from Schüller on 76', and three points for HJK. The two teams meet again in Turku this Thursday.

Highlights of HJK 3-1 TPS

HJK are top, 60 points from 28 games, with a five point lead over Honka and a game in hand. TPS meanwhile continue to make mugs of my prediction that they'd come second, they are ninth with 34 points from 28 games.

Inter 1-2 VPS

After such a good start to the season, VPS were in danger of drifting into mid-table without a trace. But their third win in a row means that they have third place (and the Europa League) in their own hands. Toni Björk's 24th minute penalty gave them the lead, before Tamas Gruborovics replied early in the second half with a penalty of his own. Anthony Dafaa, whose injury was a main factor in VPS's poor run, scored the winner with 12 minutes left. Inter meanwhile are rotting, their Veikkausliiga status saved only by JJK's impending relegation.

Highlights of Inter 1-2 VPS

Inter sit in 11th place, with 31 points from 29 games, ten points ahead of JJK. VPS are third, with 46 points from 29 games.

KuPS 2-0 RoPS

A dress rehearsal for Saturday's Suomen Cup final - and won comfortably by the mighty KuPS. Three points was the prize here, while Saturday sees a cup and European football on offer for the winner. Goals from Ilja Venäläinen (35') and Dudu (45') saw a routine win, and gives KuPS hope of a top half finish.

Highlights of KuPS 2-0 RoPS

KuPS are now in seventh place, with 35 points from 29 games. RoPS are tenth, with 34 points from 29 games. It really is tight in the middle.

Jaro 1-2 IFK Mariehamn

Saturday afternoon's game was vital for both teams - Jaro's good early season had faded, while Mariehamn remain inconsistent but needed to win to dream of a return to Europe. Free scoring summer signing Luis Solignac's fifth goal in five games opened the scoring on 20mins for Mariehamn, but Frank 'the Tank' Jonke equalised on 36mins. A 66th minute winner from IFK's other summer man Josef Ibrahim (3 goals in 7) secured the points, and keep Mariehamn 4 points behind VPS.

Highlights of Jaro 1-2 IFK Mariehamn

Jaro are now eighth, with 34 points from 29 games, and have lost their last five games. Mariehamn are fourth, 42 points from 29 games.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 28 - VPS going for bronze

Hot on the heels of the last round, comes a Monday with all twelve teams in action. There were plenty of goals, and while nothing changed at the top or bottom, the middle moved around a little bit...

VPS 2-1 KuPS

With the top two so far ahead, nine other sides had aspirations of coming third - even second-bottom Inter were only ten points away with six matches left. VPS had started the season well, but have struggled for goals lately - and they won this game the hard way against KuPS.

VPS head the race for third (photo via Mikael Nybacka)

KuPS had struggled too this season, but Ilja Venäläinen's eleventh goal of the season with just two minutes gone looked promising. They held the lead for an hour, before Jordan Seabrook flicked in an equaliser (63'), before captain Sebastian Strandvall missed a birthday penalty. It was substitute Steven Morrissey who sealed the points with an 84th minute goal, and took VPS clear in the race for third, with Europa League football the prize.

Highlights of VPS 2-1 KuPS
 
VPS sit third in the table, with 43 points from 28 matches. KuPS remain tenth, with 32 points from 28 games.

Lahti 0-2 HJK

After all the build-up, including bus stop posters and all sorts, HJK won a crucial three points with two goals from Robin Lod (who has six for the season, including his hat-trick against Honka). They even managed to miss a penalty at 0-0, the normally reliable Zeneli hit a tame one straight at the keeper's legs. Lod's goals came on 44 and 71 minutes. Lahti's recent form is still impressive, and haven't drawn since June... That they were genuine relegation contenders for part of the season shows their rise, while HJK's form since the Champions League debacle has been near faultless, unbeaten in 14 league games and they've won the last five.

Highlights of Lahti 0-2 HJK

Lahti are sixth in the table, 36 points from 28 games. HJK are top, with 57 points from 27 matches - three clear of Honka with a game in hand, which is against TPS next week.

Jaro 1-3 Honka

Honka had drawn their last two matches 0-0, but their youngsters provided a spark in Pietarsaari. 20-year-old Kevin Mombilo carried on his promising form with the opening goal (20'), before Tim Väyrynen's tenth goal of the season (42') ensured a half-time lead of 2-0. A superb solo goal from Moshtagh Yaghoubi (61') made it 3-0, before Mathias Kullström pulled one back (77'), but it wasn't enough to halt Jaro's run of eight games without a win. There were some handbags after the final whistle, but nothing major.

Highlights of Jaro 1-3 Honka

Jaro are seventh, with 34 points from 28 games. Honka remain second, 54 points from 28 games (one game more than HJK, three points behind).

IFK Mariehamn 3-2 MYPA

The game had been delayed by half an hour after the officials were delayed... They were there to give a penalty to Mariehamn, converted by Byskata (16'), before goals from Solignac (35') and Bernardo (81') looked like a smooth ride was in store. But the foot came off the gas, and MYPA made it nervous after Anttilainen (84') and Soiri (89')... But it ended 3-2, a decent recovery for Mariehamn after last week's drubbing.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 3-2 MYPA

IFK Mariehamn are fifth in the table, 39 points from 28 games. MYPA are fourth, with 40 points from 28 matches.

RoPS 1-1 JJK

JJK picked up a point after the journey to Rovaniemi, but it did little to help their struggle against relegation. Mika Lahtinen scored for RoPS after 29 minutes, before Antto Hilska equalised (with his second goal in two games) after 74 minutes. RoPS are now winless in five, JJK haven't won any league games in ten.

No highlights yet.

RoPS are ninth, 34 points from 28 games. JJK are twelvth, with 21 points from 28 games - ten behind Inter with five matches left.

TPS 1-1 Inter

TPS opened the scoring in the Turku derby after just a minute (Roope Riski). But a late header from Guy Gnabouyou (84') earned a point for Inter, to keep the gap to JJK at ten points. TPS are winless in five games, and have two games against HJK to come. Inter meanwhile have two wins in nineteen.

Highlights of TPS 1-1 Inter

TPS are eighth, with 34 points from 27 games. Inter are eleventh, with 31 points from 28 matches.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 27 - HJK extend lead

They don't wait long after international breaks in Finland - Thursday's games kicked off less than 48 hours after the Georgia v Finland match on Tuesday. A full round on Thursday/Friday will also be followed by a full round on Monday... The debate about fixture congestion and league structure will rage on.

HJK 6-1 IFK Mariehamn

After scoring five goals in their previous league match at Jaro, HJK stepped it up with six against Mariehamn (they've now scored 21 goals against them in 5 league and cup matches this year). A masterful performance from Mikael Forssell capped off a day that saw HJK extend their lead at the top to three points, with a game in hand.

HJK's ginger Don Draper in form

It was Erfan Zeneli who opened the scoring (13'), curling into the far corner from the edge of the area. A cute backheel from Forssell then set up Sorsa (27'), before Miklu was brought down in the box and Zeneli took the penalty (32') and the half time score was 3-0. The second half was five minutes old when Forssell was given an open goal to aim at, before he headed in his second (68'). He was replaced to a standing ovation by the debutant Eero Markkanen, before Mariehamn got a consolation through Bernardo Ribiero, although Ibrahim's shot had crossed the line already (80'). Demba Savage finished off the rout on 84mins and it ended 6-1 - but it could have been ten...

Highlights of HJK 6-1 IFK Mariehamn

HJK are top of the table, with 54 points from 26 games - three clear of Honka with a game in hand (to be played against TPS in two weeks). IFK Mariehamn are fifth, with 36 points from 27 games.

Honka 0-0 RoPS

Honka lost ground on the leaders with a 0-0 draw at home to RoPS, in front of a crowd of 2032 who paid what they wanted - we await figures of how much... Both teams had chances (including Honka having a couple ruled out for offside), but RoPS are now unbeaten in six away league games, having lost eight in a row before. Honka have had two goalless draws in a row, and seem to be running out of steam...

Highlights of Honka 0-0 RoPS

Honka are second in the table, with 51 points from 27 matches. RoPS are ninth, with 33 points from 27 games.

Inter 1-3 Lahti

Lahti had billed the return of Ariel 'Tuco' Ngueukam as something akin to Mannerheim, the famous General - his second debut had been delayed due to visa issues (this was his first start). He opened the scoring at Inter with 24 minutes gone, celebrating with a salute... Guy Gnabouyou equalised just after, then Vini Dantas restored Lahti's lead before the break, set up by another backheel. Pyry Kärkkäinen's second half goal sealed the win (68').

Highlights of Inter 1-3 Lahti

Inter are eleventh, with 30 points from 27 games, ten clear of JJK. Lahti are now sixth, 36 points from 27 games, behind Mariehamn on goals scored.

JJK 1-3 VPS

JJK are quickly running out of matches, and a home defeat to bronze-medal chasing VPS doesn't help. A goal at the end of the first half from Tomi Ameobi gave VPS the lead, and he'll struggle to score an easier goal, and I don't think he knew much about it. The second VPS goal meanwhile was a different beast, Steven Morrissey picking up the ball in his half, fighting off several defenders and scoring (63') - a great goal, his first since returning to Finland. JJK's Hilska scored after 79mins, but Morrissey scored again in the 86th minute to ensure another JJK loss.

VPS get ahead (photo via Jaana Kautto)

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

JJK remain bottom of the table, with 20 points from 27 matches, ten points behind Inter and safety. VPS are fourth, on 40 points from 27 games, behind MYPA on goal difference.

KuPS 1-1 TPS

TPS needed an injury time equaliser to leave Kuopio with anything. Miikka Ilo scored for KuPS after 15 minutes, but TPS sub Mikko Hyyrynen scored in the 92nd minute to seal a point for TPS, who still have hopes for third place.

KuPS are tenth, with 32 points from 27 games. TPS are 8th, with 33 points from 26 matches.

MYPA 1-0 Jaro

MYPA coach Toni Korkeakunnas spent the international break sorting out becoming Lahti's next coach (for next season), but carried on the quest for Europe with a routine win over Jaro. Olajide Williams scored the only goal after just five minutes, from six yards out.

Highlights of MYPA 1-0 Jaro

MYPA are third in the table, with 40 points from 27 games. Jaro are down to seventh, with 34 points from 27 matches.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Finland v Spain - the rematch

Back in March, we saw the Miracle of Gijón - David and Goliath, Finland's biggest game in years - and they held World and European champions Spain to a draw. It's a miracle because let's be honest. Spain dominated, had 46 attempts on goal, 72% possession, and 38 corners. Yet it ended 1-1 as Teemu Pukki scored a breakaway goal late on (79mins), equalising Sergio Ramos' goal just after the half time.

When goalscorers collide

The return match takes place this Friday in Helsinki, in front of a sell-out crowd of 37,500. The stakes are high - a Spain win would almost seal automatic qualification, while Finland have little chance of making the play-offs, any result would contribute towards an improved seeding for the Euro 2016 qualifier pots.

Niki Mäenpää gets vital practice (photo via Jussi Eskola)

Finland come into the game on the back of some decent results, a friendly win over Slovenia and 4 points from Belarus in two qualifier in June. They'll be missing Perparim Hetemaj for the tie, after he collected his second booking of the group in Belarus. The Finns are also missing Joel Pohjanpalo and Toni Kolehmainen through injury, while Mikael Forssell doesn't make the squad due to a lack of playing time with HJK.

Will Mattila need a crash helmet on Friday? (photo via Huuhkajat)

The Spain squad is missing some familiar faces. Chelsea's Juan Mata and Fernando Torres miss out, Xabi Alonso is injured, while Sergio Busquets withdrew. But they can still call on the likes of Iniesta, Villa, Pedro and Xavi. When naming his squad, Vicente del Bosque said "We have some replacements who can contribute a lot to the side. There's no drama. These 23 players will give their all to beat Finland... We can't use whether they are playing or not as an excuse. The system of play can vary, but we're not changing the philosophy. The layout, sure, but not the philosophy."

Del Bosque with the crucial bit of paper

The players in Friday night's drama are:

Finland

Niki Mäenpää (VVV Venlo)
Lukas Hradecky (Brøndby)
Henri Sillanpää (VPS)
Markus Halsti (Malmö)
Petri Pasanen (AGF Århus)
Veli Lampi (Arsenal Kyiv)
Joona Toivio (Molde
Jukka Raitala (Heerenveen)
Juhani Ojala (Terek Grozny)
Mikko Sumusalo (HJK)
Niklas Moisander (Ajax)
Kari Arkivuo (Häcken)
Kasper Hämäläinen (Lech Poznan)
Tim Sparv (Greuther Fürth)
Alexander Ring (Kaiserslautern)
Sakari Mattila (HJK)
Roman Eremenko (Rubin Kazan)
Teemu Tainio (HJK)
Rasmus Schüller (HJK)
Teemu Pukki (Celtic)
Riku Riski (Hønefoss)
Erfan Zeneli (HJK)
Spain

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
Pepe Reina (Napoli)
Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid)
Raul Albiol (Napoli)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)
Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad)
Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)
Nacho Fernandes (Real Madrid)
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona)
David Silva (Manchester City)
Javi Garcia (Manchester City)
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Jesus Navas (Manchester City)
Isco (Real Madrid)
Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Mario Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
David Villa (Atletico Madrid)
Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona)
Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City)
Roberto Soldado (Tottenham)

Will we see sad Spaniards again this weekend? A draw was a miracle. What could a win be? If you're not able to watch the game, follow Escape To Suomi on Twitter and Facebook for live updates.

Extended highlights of Spain 1-1 Finland (via Tumpero on YouTube)

Monday, September 02, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 26 - HJK thump Jaro, Honka blank

A full weekend of fixtures, and it looks more and more like confirming the top and bottom of the table. Meanwhile, the group of teams between third and eleventh are still just as close... A quick summary.

Jaro 1-5 HJK

Since beating Honka a fortnight ago, HJK's task was clear - win their remaining games, they win the title. They kicked off on a wet Sunday at the same time as Honka, but they went about their business in style, taking four minutes to open the scoring - Mikael Forssell with his first goal in seven league games, but he then slammed a 22nd minute penalty against the post... They eventually doubled the lead before the break, Zeneli finding space at the edge of the box and firing in the bottom corner.

Forssell challenging Jaro keeper Öst

The second half had barely started when Nikolai Alho lashed in a third goal after Jaro threw away possession. Jaro lost Funicello for a second yellow after a wild challenge on 53 minutes, then Sakari Mattila made it 0-4 on 58'. Forssell scored his second on 76', meeting a cross for his eighth goal of the season. An own goal with ten minutes left made it 1-5, but it was a comprehensive win.

Highlights of Jaro 1-5 HJK

HJK return to the top of the table, with 51 points from 25 matches (their game in hand is against TPS later in the month). Jaro are sixth, with 34 points from 26 games.

Lahti 2-0 KuPS

Friday's game was a feisty affair, but was settled by two goals inside twenty minutes. The first was a slight blooper, Mäkitalo slipped while taking a corner in the 11th minute, but the ball found it's way to Pyry Kärkkäinen who finished nicely. Six minutes later, Tommi Kari met a cross in front of the goal, and Mika Hilander could only push it back out via the bar, and a goal given.

After that, a few yellow cards were brandished, and league top scorer Rafael saw red for an elbow in the second half. There were some tasty challenges, but Lahti saw the game out and it ended 2-0.

Highlights of Lahti 2-0 KuPS

Lahti, having spent nearly the whole season in the bottom two, go up to seventh, with 33 points from 26 matches. KuPS drop to 10th, with 31 points from 26 games.

TPS 2-2 JJK

Saturday's match was crucial for both sides, but the result did little to help either. Hilska gave JJK the lead after 30', but TPS equalised just 3 minutes later with a goal from Lehtonen. In the second half, Eero Markkanen said farewell (he signed on loan for HJK later) with another goal on 50', but Juho Lähde salvaged a point on 69'.

Highlights of TPS 2-2 JJK

TPS are eighth in the table, with 32 points from 25 matches. JJK remain bottom, 20 points from 26 games, ten points from safety with seven games left.

MYPA 0-0 Honka

No goals. One red card (MYPA's Ramadingaye was sent off for a second yellow in the last minute). Honka lose ground. Enjoy!

Highlights of MYPA 0-0 Honka

MYPA are third in the table, with 37 points from 26 games. Honka drop to second, with 50 from 26.

VPS 1-1 RoPS

With both teams in the huddle for the race for third, but another draw didn't help either. The goals didn't come until late, but the first was special - Jamaican midfielder Akeem Priestly picked up the ball on the halfway line and fired in from 25 yards out (82mins). A rare away win was on the cards, but VPS equalised on 86mins, Scotsman Grant Kerr with a crucial goal to save a point.

Highlights of VPS 1-1 RoPS

VPS are fourth in the table, with 37 points from 26 games. RoPS are 9th, with 32 points from their 26 matches.

IFK Mariehamn 1-1 Inter

Inter opened the scoring through Irakli Sirbiladze (65mins), his eighth of the season, but a curling 87th minute equaliser from Alonzo Adlam secured a point for Mariehamn. I don't think I've written more than a paragraph about any Inter match this season.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 1-1 Inter

IFK Mariehamn are fifth, with 36 points from 26 matches. Inter are eleventh, with 30 points from 26 games.