Showing posts with label Liigacup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liigacup. Show all posts

Saturday, March 19, 2016

FC Lahti win the 2016 Liigacup

SJK hosted Saturday's League Cup final against FC Lahti at the WallSport Areena - a penalty shootout was required after both sides failed to score in regulation time - with FC Lahti winning their third Liigacup after a 4-3 shootout win.

Photo by Pyry Waltari

Lahti started the game well and put the ruling Finnish champion under pressure. Lahti squeezed SJK's end of the field, but after ten minutes it failed to produce results. SJK had already broken up Lahti's attack, but a careless pass by Johannes Laaksonen gave directly Bonilha. Bonilha was free and he shot from sixteen yards toward the top corner with a fiery shot. However, SJK's keeper Mikhel Aksalu made the save and kept the goal untouched.

After less than 20 minutes into the game, SJK had their first chance to take the lead. SJK kept possession until Jarkko Hurme sent a high ball through to Matej Hradecký. Hradecký played the ball to Roope Riski. Riski played the ball to strike partner Tuco, however, Tuco's finish hit the bar. 

By the end of the second half, SJK ended strongly but were unable to make a breakthrough. After ninety minutes, the game went straight to penalties...

+ Alexei Eremenko, SJK
+ Rafael, FC Lahti
- Youness Rahimi, SJK
+ Jasse Tuominen, FC Lahti
+ Roope Riski, SJK
- Kalle Multanen, FC Lahti
+ Johannes Laaksonen, SJK
+ Pyry Kärkkäinen, FC Lahti
- Timo Tahvanainen, SJK
+ Hassan Sesay, FC Lahti

So Sesay struck the winning penalty, and Lahti go into the upcoming season with the Liigacup.

Two weeks until Veikkausliiga begins....

This report is an edited version of an article which originally appeared on

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Behind Closed Doors - a Liigacup story

Here is another guest post by our friend Henry Hakamäki, fresh from his Liigacup preview. Henry has written about the recent Lahti v HIFK match, which was played with no fans in attendance, through choice rather than as a punishment...

Is there anything more strange in the world of sports than a game where fans are prohibited from attending? Something just seems wrong when a game is being played and no fans are there. There is an eerie silence, only broken by the occasional strain of effort, command by one player to another, or instruction from the manager. Regardless of the stakes of the match, the importance is seemingly much less when there aren't ravenous fans cheering, screaming, and singing in unison, trying to will their team to victory with their support.

Action from Lahti v HIFK, photo via Mirja Hussain

Imagine El Clásico, Barcelona and Real Madrid, playing with no noise. Imagine turning on the TV and hearing silence as the likes of Messi and Ronaldo play their hearts out. If those stakes aren’t high enough, imagine they are playing in the Champions League final, the grandest stage for clubs. In your head, you know the importance, but without the mobs of screaming fans, the atmosphere is that of a small club pre-season exhibition game.  

The reason I decided to write this piece is because of the Liigacup fixture between FC Lahti and HIFK. Lahti was victorious, 1-0, but at the expense of the seeming importance of the fixture and the enjoyment of fans. In case you haven’t heard, FC Lahti made the decision to play the fixture behind closed doors. According to sources at Lahti, the decision was made because HIFK fans are regarded as “higher risk”, due to their exuberant behaviour at games in previous seasons. Lahti determined that it was “not economically feasible” to hire enough security personnel to ensure safety for their fans at this particular home fixture. 

HIFK fans at a Stadin Derby v HJK in 2015

While the game was televised, fans were not allowed to attend the game, meaning empty stands and an atmosphere that makes attending games so meaningful was missing. Even watching on TV, listening to fans yelling and screaming makes the game that much more enjoyable, even though a TV minimizes much of the crowd’s noise. A game playing behind closed doors, without the team being sanctioned to do so, is absolutely bizarre. To me, this is something that I have never heard of and I wanted to dig into the topic a bit more.

I have watched games played behind closed doors before, so I knew they were not totally unheard of. Clubs or national teams, facing sanctions by either their football league or federation, is not uncommon in some places where fans are punished for racism and violent displays at the match relatively frequently.  Eastern European teams and African teams are often sanctioned to play behind closed doors, as is the occasional case in large South American derby matches.  Some other examples of matches being played behind closed doors were a Hungary v Romania World Cup qualifier in 2013, Inter Milan’s Champions League home group stage fixtures in 2005, and various Russian and Turkish league fixtures (where matches played behind closed doors are surprisingly common). The logic behind sanctioning a team to play a home game behind closed doors is three-fold, it punishes the team by eliminating the main factor of the home field advantage (the crowd), it hurts he team financially as they take in no ticket revenue for the fixture, and it also removes the potential for crowd trouble, be it violence or racism.  

Playing matches behind closed doors voluntarily for the purpose of fan safety is logical, and is the proper thing to do. Unless the safety of fans can be reasonably assured, fans should not be permitted to enter the grounds, only to expose themselves to potential harm. Beyond the obvious quality of increasing fan safety, it also reduces the risk that the club/federation will be held liable for any injuries sustained by fans or damage to the grounds. Another justifiable reason for voluntarily blocking fans is if repeated conduct violations by fans have led to threats by the federation to punish the club with points penalties. Having the game behind closed doors due because of extreme or violent opposing fans and/or a terror threat makes sense, but there are also less obvious examples of why it would be justified to hold fixtures behind closed doors. 

In 2009, the Mexican football league held a round of fixtures behind closed doors nationwide, due to the H1N1 influenza pandemic that the country was gripped with at the time. In 2013, Rhyl FC of the Welsh Premier League nearly played their last home fixtures of the season behind closed doors, even though they were league leaders at the time. After five fan conduct violations, the Football Association of Wales threatened the team with a points penalty if further violations occurred. Rhyl FC let supporters knew if there were any detrimental fan conduct, the rest of the season would be played behind closed doors. After this threat was issued, fans behaved more civilly and were allowed into the matches. The club would have been justified in closing doors to fans, if those fans would have jeopardized the championship for the club. These are examples where it is clear that playing games behind closed doors is logical, though still detrimental to the football atmosphere.  

Back to Lahti v HIFK. The justification of FC Lahti for playing the fixture behind closed doors was that it was not economically feasible to have adequate security personnel to ensure fan safety. Yes, HIFK fans do have a reputation of being a bit over-enthusiastic, though never cases of extreme violence or other safety situations. They are very loud, with occasional flares being lit, and some general over-exuberance, but in reality, outside the flares, they don’t create a situation where fan safety is of concern.  Fans are supposed to be loud, filled with enthusiasm and team spirit. To play a game behind closed doors, because you are worried that a normal amount of security will not be able to handle some noisy HIFK fans, is unbelievable. 

Typically, the home team encourages fans to be loud in the hopes that they will have louder cheering for their team. However, when you have a situation like this, where fans are not allowed to even enter the grounds, what precedence is being set? It is a bit scary that a cup fixture can be played behind closed doors for a marginal reason as finances.  Only time will tell if more Finnish football fixtures will voluntarily play behind closed doors, in anticipation of loud opposing fans. I, for one, certainly hope not.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Liigacup 2016 - from the players

It's been a while since the last guest post, and with perfect timing here is friend of the blog Henry Hakamäki and his discussions with some of the participants of the 2016 Liigacup. Henry has taken a lot of time to support ETS (and the Finnish Football Show) and has got some great responses from the players.

For the uninitiated, the Finnish League Cup is essentially an organised pre-season tournament between the twelve top division clubs. There is no Europa League place for the winner (although the finalists enter the Finnish cup later on), while previous results have been notoriously hard to call.

Akseli Kalermo (RoPS): I think the Liigacup is a good way to start the season and it's important for our team to develop our game before the league starts. For me, these matches are very important because I'm fighting for a place in the starting eleven. I will be playing as a right-back so I want to learn when to join the attack and give crosses and when to stay back and focus on defending. I'm a player with good ability to run, so I want to help my team with my strengths like my speed and running. That’s what I want to improve the most I think, I need to learn to play to my strengths.

Jussi Vasara (SJK): This year the Liigacup is organized a little bit differently than previously, so its interesting to see how it goes. It is my first time to play against newly-promoted PS Kemi (in the first match). I think it is good chance to see their team before the Veikkausliiga season. We have few new players and assistant coach (Brian Page). The Liigacup is a very good place to unite new and the old players. Of course, we look for the win, but its never easy. If we are successful, it is going to be a good boost for our confidence. Lots of good games coming.

Lauri Ala-Myllymäki (Ilves):  I think it's a good way to get the season started. Of course we want to do as well as we can!  For me, I’m looking for overall improvement, I can’t say anything specific.

Marco Matrone (Ilves): The Liigacup is a very important competition for us, especially to improve our game. We have a new coach and a few new players, including me, so it’s important to learn how to play together as a team. Our new coach also wants us to play a little differently than last year, so our main target in the Liigacup is to improve our game. Results are also important, but not the main thing. Liigacup is kind more of training competitions for many clubs.

Petteri Pennanen (KuPS): For me, it's perfect to make a comeback in the Liigacup after a long injury, so mainly I just wait to play games again and the Liigacup gives a good chance to do it before the league will start. The Liigacup is important for the team to play tough games before the league, but everybody knows that it's during a preseason so it's more important to develop our game than the results this time of the year. But anyway, when we go onto the field we always play to win so of course we want to do well in the Liigacup.  For me, it’s important to get back into match form after my injury, and then take everything step-by-step from there.

Petteri Pennanen

Thomas Mäkinen (IFK Mariehamn): It feels good that the cup is starting again. It's always nice to be playing games, and I look forward to playing in hard games. I want to improve many things, such as my strength and passing. From the team’s point of view, we have a good feeling because we have almost the same team as last year, so we know each other very well and look forward to getting started.

Wayne Brown (SJK): Yes, the pre-season is a very busy time for us, we have a lot of games with the Liigacup and also friendlies in Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Norway and Spain. This early on into the season we are trying to improve our fitness and match sharpness. It's been three months since our last game, so this can take some time.  Also, we have new players so it's about everyone getting used to each other. Another thing we will be working on is team bonding. This is vital for a team both on and off the pitch. We are looking forward to the Liigacup, and winning it will be our target. 

Wayne Brown

Samu Volotinen (PK-35): Well of course the Liigacup is preparation for the Veikkausliiga season, but I am always looking to win every game, and I think there will be high quality games in the cup. During the cup I look to perform well with consistent results and to grow as a player. For the team, the cup is preparation for the Veikkausliiga season.

Johannes Laaksonen (SJK): As a team, we want to win every game, every competition, so the Liigacup is one of them.  Success in it takes you straight in the qualifiers in Finnish Cup!  It starts early in the preseason, so it’s a good chance for improve your team’s game.  You can also test players in these games, so for the coach these games can make his decisions easier. Almost every team has changed from last season and teams aren’t 100% fit so it’s important to get small details right for the new players, and get your match fitness before the season starts. Also, personally, doing well in the Liigacup is important to get your self confidence high before the first "real game".

Elias Ahde (SJK): I think that the Liigacup is a good thing that the team can use to focus. Also, it gives some experience in playing and not only pre-season-ing. I will try to improve my goalscoring skills and playing with this team. I think we are a strong team for this competition.

Ilmari Niskanen (KuPS): It is nice to have tough games already at this time of the year during the pre-season. I'm really looking forward to Liigacup because I have missed two earlier Liigacups because of injuries, but now I'm fit and ready to play. I hope that I can play well and get in good form before the Veikkausliiga season. As a team, we will test new players during the Liigacup and improve our game and of course, win games!

Otto-Pekka Jurvainen (HIFK): It's nice that the games are about to start and the team is really looking forward to it. Liigacup games are important preparation for upcoming league games. It is important to get games where there are some points at stake, competitive games. The most important thing for the team is to start to learn new and old things that we want to do inside games and build up our team game comprehensively, but also get used to the game tempo again and get familiar with new guys in the team.

Walter Viitala (IFK Mariehamn): The Liigacup is a great way to train our team structure, and for a goalie it’s important to play as much as possible with the defending line. Everyone in the team is looking forward to really starting the season and play meaningful games.

Walter Viitala

Mikko Kuningas (FC Lahti): It is great to play against other Veikkausliiga teams because now we can play quality games straight from the start of the pre-season. These games are good for our team. Now we are able to try some different tactics and we can create our own style of playing before the Veikkausliiga season starts. I think the results are not the most important things right now, but of course it is more fun to win than lose.

Saku Eriksson (HIFK): I think the idea of the cup is good and beneficial, offering clubs competitive games early on, but still giving the chance to test some things out. I'll just try to get into my game after a long break and get myself a good pre-season. Our team is eager to win anything, and everyone is hungry to show what they go for!


My thanks again to Henry for getting such a wide range of responses and insight into the players thoughts. The Liigacup kicks off on Friday 22nd January, the games are available to watch on ISTV.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tulos: Things you may have missed

Some family friends of ours were visiting from Finland this week, the topic of social media popped up. They work for a online sports channel focusing on extreme sports, EpicTV, and were more than happy to talk about their experience. Essentially, Kirsti and Panu said that I should be looking to focus more on Facebook. Twitter is excellent for instant and current news, but hardly a place to catch up at your leisure. As such, I post and link to several stories which may be missed unless you're on at the time.

So I've decided to summarise the stories of interest with one blog post, I think the term is 'ICYMI'. Anyway, here's what has happened in the last couple of weeks. Future blogs will be shorter, covering perhaps a fortnight at most - the below covers most the year so far. Feedback, as always, is welcome!

Cricket scores in the Helsinki futsal third division...

Finland U21s reached the final of the Commonwealth Cup in Russia, losing 2-1 to South Africa. Their semi-final win over Turkmenistan saw two moments of bravado from the Finns. Moshtagh Yaghoubi and Dani Hatakka were involved, well worth remembering.


Finland played two internationals in Abu Dhabi - they defeated Sweden 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Yemen. The sides were mostly made up of Nordic based players, but outstanding performers in the Sweden game were Lukas Hradecky and Petteri Forsell, with a debut international goal for Roope Riski.

Former Chelsea youth player Nortei Nortey had a trial with Jaro, but failed to earn a contract.

The 2015 Liigacup began, wins for Ilves and Inter and a draw between IFK Mariehamn and HIFK. Make a note of the fixtures and results here.

The farce/saga over Veikkausliiga places rumbles on, as MYPA were denied a licence to play in the top division in 2015, Ilves promoted in their place. They have since applied to play in Ykkönen but have also appealed the decision. At the time of writing, this is still to be decided. KTP meanwhile took Honka's place - Honka will now play in Kakkonen going under the name of FC Esport Honka.

In the annual FIFPro tournament in Norway, Finland's team of free agents lost both of their matches on penalties against Ireland and Norway. Player of the tournament was former RoPS striker Aleksandr Kokko, who spoke about his desire to play abroad.

Finland defender Markus Halsti signed for MLS club DC United. He played in this season's Champions League for Malmö.

Despite several media reports of tedious speculation, Niklas Moisander confirmed that he would remain at the club until the end of the season, where he is likely to move to a Serie A club, possibly Lazio or Roma.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The 2013 Liigacup final - Lahti v JJK

Saturday sees the 17th edition of the Liigacup eventually reach it's final - the competition which began in Lahti on 16th January comes full circle with the final in Lahti on 6th April. The twelve Veikkausliiga clubs have duked it out, and we end up with a rematch of the opening game of the tournament.

Group 1 opened with Lahti playing JJK at Kisapuisto in temperatures of -10c, and ended in a goalless draw.

Photo of the first match between Lahti and JJK in January

The second match between the two clubs also took place in Kisapuisto on 5th February, with JJK the home team. It also ended in a draw, Olli Tynkkynen opened the scoring for Lahti before Eero Markkanen equalised. 

 Taken during the second match (photo by Maalipotku)

Group one ended with TPS as group winners, while Lahti were runners-up and JJK were one of the best third place sides.

Lahti defeated group 3 winners RoPS 1-0 in the quarter-finals, then thoroughly beat KuPS 3-0 in the semi-finals.

JJK surprised most by defeating HJK on penalties in the last eight (after a 0-0 draw), then defeated TPS on penalties (again after a 0-0 draw) to reach the final.

The first silverware is up for grabs this weekend, and while it may not give a precise indication of what is to come, the glory is in the trophy. The last Liigacup winner to finish the league season in first place was FC Inter in 2008. But both teams will be looking to put a marker down for the season, and what better way than with a trophy.

The prize for Saturday's winners


Lahti have played five matches in the Liigacup, scoring 8 goals and conceding 3.
JJK have played five matches and scored 7 goals and conceded five, all in the group stage.

The final is being played in Lahti, due to Lahti having the better group stage record.

Lahti have won the Liigacup once, in 2007 they defeated Inter on penalties in the final after a 0-0 draw. JJK reached the final in 2011, but lost to Honka in Espoo (after another 0-0 draw).

JJK's top scorer in the competition is Eero Marrkanen with four goals (including a hat-trick against Inter). Lahti's top scorers are Olli Tynkkynen and Loorents Hertsi with two goals each.

At the time of writing, Lahti are even money to win in 90 minutes with Unibet, while JJK are 5/2 against.

Friday, March 08, 2013

The 2013 Liigacup story so far...

It's taken just under two months, but the group stage of the 2013 Liigacup is now at the quarter final stage. The schedule has conplimented the pre-season schedule for the twelve clubs involved, some have travelled far and wide in-between. Time for a quick re-cap of what we've seen so far.

2012 winners TPS have started strongly

Group 1

On paper the strongest group, with three of 2012's top five teams - but it was runners-up FC Inter who surprised everyone, picking up just one point from their six matches. Admittedly Inter were without top scorer Irakli Sirbiladze due to injury, but they conceded 15 goals, and finished bottom. 2012 winners TPS finished top, unbeaten in their games. They go through with Lahti (2nd) and JJK (3rd), who didn't pull up any trees but improved towards the closing stages of the round. Lahti only scored four goals in six games so will need to improve quickly.

Group 2

Champions HJK looked like winning this group at a canter, winning their first four matches at an aggregate at 13-0. But MYPA shocked everyone by beating them 1-0, and only finished two points behind in the end. Last year's 4th placed IFK Mariehamn lost all six matches, and conceded 10 goals against HJK. Suomen Cup holders Honka didn't do enough to earn a 'best 3rd placed' spot, with their two wins against IFK and a draw with MYPA all they achieved.

Group 3

The closest group of the three, and won by the newly promoted RoPS. VPS finished bottom and exited early, despite a final day win over RoPS, as KuPS finished second (level on 10 points with RoPS, but with an inferior head to head record). Jaro finished third despite a strong start, and made it through ahead of Honka. KuPS scored 14 goals in their six matches, only HJK scored more (19). KuPS managed to go between excellent and awful and back, so on their day will be a threat. RoPS have bought well, but Jaro's five goals in six is unlikely to put much fear into their next opponent.

So the quarter-finals, here is the schedule:

TPS v Jaro (Saturday 9th March, kick-off 1330 GMT)
HJK v JJK (Saturday 9th March, kick-off 1230 GMT)
RoPS v FC Lahti (Sunday 10th March, kick-off 1500 GMT)
MYPA v KuPS (Saturday 9th March, kick-off 1200 GMT)

The semi-finals will be (schedule TBC):

TPS or Jaro v HJK or JJK
RoPS or Lahti v MYPA or KuPS

The prize for this year's winner