Sunday, October 27, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 33 - over for another year

Six months on, everything is sorted. While last week confirmed the final major issue of who would get a medal, there were still farewells, trophies and places to deliver. Several managers move onto new clubs, HJK received the championship trophy, and several clubs still had places to play for.

Ahead of the loooooooooong winter break, there'll be posts looking at the best bits of 2013, statistical trends, and plenty of other things related to Finnish football - some will be appearing on other websites (follow Twitter/Facebook for more info). Meanwhile, here is the summary of the final round of fixtures.

HJK 4-2 KuPS

A fifth consecutive title had been confirmed a couple of weeks ago - but they finally got their hands on the trophy after a pretty open game against KuPS. The teams had previously faced each other in Helsinki in June, and KuPS came away with a 1-2 win. This time, Mikael Forssell's hat trick (6, 54, 89 mins) was decisive, although goals from Hakola and Paananen had given KuPS the lead. Mannström had scored the other (39').

Ville Wallen with the trophy - don't drop it!

HJK were unbeaten in their final twenty league matches after an indifferent start, including ten wins in the last eleven. It's lazy to assume the European exit was a kickstarter, as Honka were providing a solid challenge at the time. The key match was HJK's 4-2 win over Honka in August, from which Honka never recovered. KuPS meanwhile say goodbye to a mixed 2013 - inconsistent league form, a third cup final defeat in a row, and more financial loss. But with decent young players in the wings, some of the pieces are already there.

Highlights of HJK 4-2 KuPS

HJK finish the season top with 73 points (average 2.21 points per game). KuPS came seventh, with 41 points (1.24pts).


JJK say farewell to the Veikkausliiga with a comprehensive defeat at MYPA - who ensured a top flight finish and an extra home game for 2014. Goals from Sihvola (62'), Sesay (66') and Anttilainen (76') sentenced JJK's young side to a fifteenth game without a win, and a fitting send-off into the second tier.

Highlights of MYPA 3-0 JJK

MYPA end in sixth place with 47 points (average 1.42pts). JJK were last with 22 points (0.67pts).

Inter 1-2 Honka

Tim Väyrynen's late winner ensured a winning finale to a good season for Honka, with a golden boot as the top scorer in the division. His seventeen goal of the season (86mins) delivered a thrilling comeback, after Guy Gnabouyou had given Inter the lead on 55mins, only to be equalised by Väisänen on 81mins. It was probably Tim's final game for Honka, whose silver medal was their highest finish since 2009.

Highlights of Inter 1-2 Honka

Inter end the season with 40 points (average 1.21 per game). Honka came second with 61 points (1.85pts).

IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

VPS's bronze medal party was brought down to Earth, but they won't be too fussed in the grand scheme. Goals from Trafford, Wiklöf and Hradecký gave Mariehamn a 3-0 lead, before Tomi Ameobi's ninth of the season made it 3-1. Byskata's injury time penalty made it 4-1 - good for Åland, which sees a historic season for the club end on a high note. VPS head into Europe next summer, but will remember the day for the bronze, not the result.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

IFK Mariehamn end the season in fourth place with 49 points (1.48pts per game). VPS were third, with 51 points (1.55pts).

Lahti 3-2 TPS

A fantastic second half of the season for Lahti ended with a win over TPS, who will be glad the season is over... Lahti's goals were scored by Hertsi, Rafael and Nganbe Nganbe. The TPS goalscorers were Riski and Lehtonen. A tremendous push from Lahti under RoPS-bound Juha Malinen, who took over a team destined for a relegation struggle. TPS meanwhile failed to live up to pre-season medal hopes, although injuries did take their toll - and budget cuts mean that 2014 could be just as challenging.

Highlights of Lahti 3-2 TPS

Lahti end the season in fifth place with 48 points (average 1.45pts). TPS ended in eighth, with 41 points (1.24pts).

Jaro 2-0 RoPS

The meeting of the teams in 11th and 10th was resolved early in favour of Jaro - Banner (6') and an Emet penalty (19') provided their first win in 13 games, after eight straight defeats. If you'd offered RoPS 11th and the Suomen Cup in March, I guess that would have been a good result... They only won one of their final ten games, and rumours of several player changes for their new coach could make things interesting - although I'm a big fan of Malinen. Watch this space.

Highlights of Jaro 2-0 RoPS

Jaro's win took them to tenth, ending with 37 points (1.12pt average). RoPS finish in eleventh place with 34 points (average 1.03pts).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 32 - VPS secure bronze

Welcome back after the international break - Finland lost, various other things were sorted, and most things in Finland were already decided. But there was a bronze medal, and a Europa League place, up for grabs. In the end, the final round of games on Sunday is going to be pretty meaningless, albeit that may help the goals flow... Anyway, here's a quick summary of Sunday.

VPS 3-0 Jaro

After a hanging loosely onto the coat-tails of the leaders for the early part of the season, a run of five defeats in six games ended the idea of a first title since the 40s. But the club were resilient enough to keep in third, with mostly the same squad that struggled in 2012. A first European campaign in 14 years awaits anyway.

The inventor of netting sleeps safely at night (photo via Linus Lindholm)

An early penalty (7mins) by Tony Björk set up proceedings after skipper Strandvall was brought down, and the captain scored one of his own just before half-time to make it 2-0 with a lovely finish. Tomi Ameobi slammed in the third from a good five feet out (62mins), his eighth goal of the season. VPS celebrated wildly, with the bonus of inflicting Jaro's eighth consecutive defeat. Jaro need to beat RoPS on Sunday to avoid ending another year in 11th.

Highlights of VPS 3-0 Jaro

VPS will end the season in third place. With one game left, they have 51 points from 32 games, and play at IFK Mariehamn on Sunday. Jaro are eleventh, with 34 points from 32 games, and host RoPS in their last match.

TPS 3-3 IFK Mariehamn

This match was quite the spectacle, or at least the last twenty minutes was. Well worth one of my Urho credits... Anyway, TPS galloped into a three goal lead, a brace from Petteri Pennanen (45, 54mins) and one from Juho Lähde (58mins). A Mariehamn win would have taken the third place race to the last day - and they nearly did it. Goals from Bright (76'), Ibrahim (77') and Hradecky (84') levelled, and an injury-time miss from the usually prolific Luis Solignac almost won the game against the odds.

Highlights of TPS 3-3 IFK Mariehamn

TPS are in eighth place in the table, with 41 points from 32 games, and visit Lahti on the final day. IFK Mariehamn are fourth, with 46 points from 32 matches, and host VPS.

Honka 4-2 Lahti

Honka had been guaranteed second place for a while, but after a rotten run, they hosted the in-form Lahti on an emotional day (the final home matches for Tuoman Peltonen and Sampo Koskinen). Lahti took the lead (14mins, Hauhia), before Väyrynen's 16th goal of the season (35') equalised. The visitors went in 1-2 up after Loorents Hertsi scored (42'). Honka came out fighting though, goals from Mombilo (59'), Äijälä (73') and Porokara (75') ensured Lahti would not reach Europe, and their heroes would go out on a high note.

Highlights of Honka 4-2 Lahti

Honka will finish in second place. They have 58 points from 32 games, and play at Inter on the last day. Lahti are fifth, with 45 points from 32 games, and host TPS on Sunday.


Bottom against top - it wasn't going to be pretty. Even a flu-ravaged HJK were far too strong for the already relegated JJK - goals from Sorsa (16'), Zeneli (23, 61'), on-loan Markkanen (46') and Schüller (70') put a convincing shine on the result. As a fan of a Premier League club, the idea of Markkanen scoring against his parent club is a little odd, but hey-ho...

Highlights of JJK 0-5 HJK

HJK are champions, and have seventy points from 32 games, they host KuPS on the final day. JJK are bottom (12th) with 22 points from 32 matches, they visit MYPA on Sunday.

KuPS 1-2 Inter Turku

It snowed in Kuopio, as my friends and relatives kept telling Facebook. Unfortunately, both teams had little to play for, so the result was perhaps slightly unpredictable. Last year's top scorer Sirbiladze likes KuPS so much, this was his third goal in three games at the Savon Sanomat Areena. Dawda Bah equalised on 57mins, but Gruborovics scored the winner on 64mins, and meant that Inter can't finish lower than ninth.

Highlights of KuPS 1-2 Inter

KuPS are seventh, with 41 points from 32 games, and will be guests at HJK's title party on Sunday. Inter are ninth, with 40 points from 32 games, and will host Honka.


MYPA announced on Friday that they had agreed a partnership with Brazilian club Fluminense, but rather than the sunny beaches, they travelled to Lapland to visit RoPS. I've not seen the highlights yet, but Sasha Anttilainen's 73rd minute goal was the winner. RoPS are now winless in their last eight league matches, but have a Suomen Cup to show for it. MYPA have virtually guaranteed another top half finish, and are in the running for the Fair Play nomination.

RoPS are in tenth place, with 34 points from 32 games, and they visit Jaro on Sunday. MYPA are sixth with 44 points from 32 games, and host relegated JJK on final day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Interview with Carl Jenkinson

Ahead of England's U21 games against San Marino and Lithuania, friend of the blog Simon Peach spoke to Carl Jenkinson on behalf of the Press Association. Simon has very generously allowed me to host the interview here, while some of the text will have been seen elsewhere in the British Press.

Carl in Finland action

How is the season going for you?
"On the team front it has been great so far. I'm really pleased with how we're doing as a team and personally I have played quite a lot of games, which has been good for me.
"I think Bac's out for two to three weeks so hopefully I'll have a couple of games here and then maybe get a little run of games.
"That's good for me because I always play my best football when I've had a little run. So it's so far so good."

Is it good to drop down to the England Under-21s then?
"Yes. Hopefully I'll get games and playing for England at any level is an honour.
"When I was given this opportunity it was a no brainer for me.
"At the end of the day I want to play for England and this is a very close step to the senior side. "Of course you have to be doing well for your club, but if you're impressing for the Under-21s I am sure the message gets back to Roy Hodgson.
"So it's good for me all round. It's good to get games and they're not friendlies either, they're qualifiers. It's going to be good for me and I'm really looking forward to it."

Not many have won Under-21s caps for different countries?
"I know. It's really strange. And it's mad to think I could be playing against Finland next month. It's crazy, but football's a strange game.
"It's weird how things work out, but it would be a nice experience for me to play against some of the Finnish lads I played with before. It would be good."

Have you still got friends in the Finland team?
"Yes. They are in my age group so I've played with not all of them but a fair few of them. I've got quite a few friends there and I know the manager as well.
"I played under him, he's a guy I've always spoken very highly of so it would be a great experience and I'd really look forward to it."

You got a good reception in Finland on the pre-season tour with Arsenal?
"It was amazing and something I really didn't expect.
"I was worried I might get booed and I was prepared for that. Then to go out there and get the response I did when I went on, it blew me away to be honest with you. It was a day I will always look back on very fondly. I wasn't expecting it and it was a great feeling.
"Playing at a club like Arsenal I know I am never going to be the lad fans are always cheering. "That will always be a Walcott or a Giroud or an Ozil, but on that occasion I was the main man and it was quite a nice experience to be honest."

Carl soaking up the ovation in Helsinki (August 2013)

What is it like facing the likes of Raheem Sterling, Ravel Morrison and Wilfried Zaha in training?
"They're fantastic. They were the ones who stood out in my first session, Sterling scored loads of goal but they were all fantastic. They showed why they are at the clubs they're at.
"I didn't kick them. I didn't face them in the games at the end. We need to keep them fit for the games. I would have got a few stern words off the gaffer had I kicked them.
"They're fantastic players and an asset to any side, especially at under-21 level.

What are your memories of Finland?
"I look back on it as a fantastic experience. I played for England Under-17s and I was third choice at the time. I then had the opportunity to play for Finland. At the time I went there and was playing regularly.
"I was in Charlton's reserve and youth teams and playing international football and there weren't many people in my team getting the experience I was.
"In terms of my career at the time it was great for me. I enjoyed my time there but at the same time when England came knocking, I had to follow my heart. I've always felt English at the end of the day."

Did Mum or Dad try to sway you?
"I was lucky. I have a supportive family so there weren't too many digs or trying to sway me one way or another. My mum was very supportive of my decision which was nice.
"I am sure she would have loved me to play for Finland but she was very supportive and I'm grateful for that."

Carl in Finland kit

Finland U21s will be playing at Milton Keynes next month. Last I heard, MK had only sold three tickets in the away end. Feel free to come and join us, and make some noise.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 31 - HJK champions, Lahti leapfrog

With the final few weeks of the season remaining, an international break is an unwelcome distraction. Even with the calendar finally settling down to one (league) match a week, the risk of injuries from a long season could catch up. Luckily, the two key moments in a league season have now been resolved. JJK's relegation was confirmed on Wednesday after a 0-4 defeat to KuPS, while HJK secured their fifth consecutive title on Sunday.

HJK celebrate with a victory sauna...

The turning point in the title was was their 4-2 win over Honka in August, which sent the Espoo side into a tailspin, while HJK grew in stature and showed their experience when it counted. But there is still plenty to play for - the race for third is still on, with Europa League football the prize, and the current league structure means that teams finishing in the top half will get an extra home match next season. While rumours fly around that the league may be expanded to 14 or even 16 teams, it will be weeks or months before a decision is made.

HJK 3-0 RoPS

HJK's title was confirmed not by their win, but by more dropped points from Honka. But they wrapped things up in style. A goalless first half kept the 7110 paying customers waiting, but second half strikes from Forssell, Savage and Mannström delighted them all, aided again by the superb Erfan Zeneli. HJK's 26th title is sorted, while they'll receive their trophy and medals on the final day at home to KuPS. Meanwhile, RoPS's hopes of a second victory at the Sonera in a week were crushed, and they drop further down, with only relegated JJK keeping them safe.

Highlights of HJK 3-0 RoPS

HJK are confirmed as champions, with 67 points from 31 matches. RoPS are in eleventh place, with 34 points from 31 games (12 points ahead of relegated JJK).

Honka 2-4 KuPS

I tweeted earlier in the week that Honka had won their previous 18 games against KuPS in all competitions - perhaps I should jinx KuPS's opponents more often... The defeat cup finalists tore into a three-goal-lead, with goals from Hynynen, Hakola and Purje. Honka came close to a point after Tim Väyrynen and Vasara scored, but an injury time goal from Aleksi Paanenen secured the win, the title for HJK, and a third consecutive league win for Kuopio's finest. A sending off for Gideon Baah keeps him riding high at the top of the naughty boy chart.

Highlights of Honka 2-4 KuPS

Honka are confirmed in second place, with a silver medal. They have 55 points from 31 games. KuPS are now sixth, with 41 points from 31 games.

Lahti 5-1 IFK Mariehamn

English centre-back Darren Purse tweeted before the game of his wonder at the Lahden Stadion ski jumps... Perhaps he'll wished he'd taken up the other sport after a 30th minute red card, his second of the season, such was the Lahti domination here. Two goals from Ariel 'Tuco' Ngueukam and a hat-trick from Rafael saw Lahti's second five-goal haul in a row. A late consolation from Ribeiro meant little other than goal difference, and Lahti overtook their guests to make fourth place, and are surely the closest challenger to VPS for third.

Highlights of Lahti 5-1 IFK Mariehamn

Lahti are fourth, with 45 points from 31 games (GD -1). Mariehamn are fifth, with 45 points from 31 games (GD -8).

Inter 2-0 JJK

Last year's runner-up Inter have left it late to hit some form, albeit against the lower placed teams. Wednesday's win at RoPS is followed by another three points at home to Inter. Two late goals (75', 90') from former JJK man Tamas Gruborovics sealed the win, and may yet lead to a late run from Inter into the top half. JJK haven't won since their last meeting with Inter, back in July. A long, sorry run.

Highlights of Inter 2-0 JJK

Inter are ninth, with 37 points from 31 matches. JJK are in twelvth place, and are relegated. They have 22 points from 31 games.


VPS dropped two valuable points in their pursuit of third, but still hold the advantage. MYPA's season has drifted to a stop, but with Antti Muurinen signing as coach for 2014 and several players extending their contracts, the future could look better. VPS took an early lead through Jordan Seabrook, but another Pekka Sihvola penalty earned MYPA a point. MYPA are currently second in the Fair Play rankings, but set to potentially earn the Europa League spot as HJK are top.

Highlights of MYPA 1-1 VPS

MYPA are in seventh place, with 41 points from 31 games. VPS are third, with 48 points from 31 games.

Jaro 0-3 TPS

Jaro's rotten form continues, this was their seventh league defeat in a row, and their now winless in 11. Surely it is too simplistic to point out that this run started when Hendrik Helmke left the club... Anyway, many people's tips for relegation are showing such form. TPS recorded only their third win in ten matches, goals from Wayne Brown, Mika Ääritalo and on-loan Manchester City youth Thomas Agyiri.

Highlights of Jaro 0-3 TPS

Jaro are tenth place, with 34 points from 31 games. TPS are eighth, with 40 points from 31 matches.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Game Of Emotions (with Aki Riihilahti & Teemu Tainio)

It's a pain sometimes that Finnish football gets noticed as much for novelty values than it does for the football. Some of the most seen things I've posted across the various platforms include an HJK fan falling out of a stand, MYPA's pitch resembling a golf course, and an article about Mrs Hyypiä. Most of it then gets lifted by 101GreatGoals without due credit... Even Egan Richardson's photo of a recent Ilta-Sanomat page turned up in free UK rag Metro.

In the same vein, former Premier League midfielders Aki Riihilahti (Crystal Palace) and Teemu Tainio (Spurs) have appeared in a series of adverts for betting group Veikkaus, along with several other high-profile Finnish athletes, and weirdly, The Bold And The Beautiful actor Ronn Moss... (I've talked about Ronn before, his show was huge in Finland in the 90s according to Mrs ETS).

Ronn and Aki learn their lines

As part of a campaign to remind people that there is more drama in sports stands, Veikkaus conceived these adverts... They've certainly got people talking. Luckily it's in English (with Finnish subtitles) so we can all enjoy it.

Part one features Aki Riihilahti, Teemu Tainio and golfer Minea Blomqvist.

Part one

Part two features Aki, Minea and javelin thrower Mikaela Ingberg.

Part two

Part three features Mikaela, speed skater Pekka Koskela and hockey player Petteri Nummelin.

Part three

Part four features Mikaela, Aki, former hockey player Juhani Tamminen, Petteri, Minea, Teemu and Pekka.

Part four

Either way, it should tickle you for a little while - feel free to leave comments below with suggestions for an English version. Perhaps without the ageing Joey Tribbiani-a-like.