Posted by: Christian Wulff | March 27, 2012

Musings on Round 1

Norwegian journalist Morten Stokstad went on to Twitter before the opening weekend fixture between Odd Grenland – Sogndal and said that if anybody were in need of some quick cash, just take out a loan and put it all on the home team to an odds of 1.5 (that’s right, embrace the metric system). After Sogndal had run out 4-0 winners and the ribbing of Stokstad started on twitter, he was quick to point out that last season he had been just as certain that Stabæk would win their opening home game against Lillestrøm. They lost 7-0.

Sogndal had scored 0.8 goals per game last season, with only solid defensive organisation making sure they finished one place above relegation in 14th. Having lost their best player in centre-half Even Hovland and a preseason that included a 8-0 defeat to newly promoted Sandnes Ulf, a loss to such solid and consistent team such as Odd did look more than likely.  But the most remarkable thing about Sogndal’s storming away win is not the fact that they upset the odds so emphatically, it is how unremarkable such results have actually become in Tippeligaen.

Last year it was truly an invitation to lose money to put any sort of bet on, and while champions Molde and Tromsø were the only teams to show any sort of consistency, the former still lost 3-0 to newly promoted Sarpsborg in their opening fixture and as late as week 10 they were beaten  5-0 away to Haugesund. Their next game was a 5-1 demolition of Start.  When Rosenborg had to beat Brann at home at the end of the season to keep their very slim chance of the league title alive, they lost 3-6. There were countless other examples last season of similar results that defied logic and laughed in the face of anybody considering even the smallest of flutters on the outcome.  

Considering the gung-ho consistency of Tippeligaen the last couple of years, Sogndal’s excellent result should be less of a surprise than the fact that the three teams tipped as title contenders this year all won at home on the same weekend. Molde’s 2-1 defeat of Strømsgodset wasn’t utterly convincing, but it’s at least a much better platform to build on than last season’s shock defeat to Sarpsborg. I urge you all to read Brendan Husebø’s excellent tactical analysis of the game on his blog

Vålerenga’s squad and resources should make them an obvious title contender, but they had the least convincing home win you’ll ever see against Haugesund. With the visitors going down to 10 men after 33 minutes, Haugesund still took the lead through Nikola Djurdjic’s penalty five minutes later. Vålerenga huffed and puffed, and helped by the creativity of second half substitute Harmeet Singh they managed to first squeeze in an equaliser from 18 year old Håvard Nielsen (who scored in the opening fixture last year as well), and then an injury time winner by Martin Pusic. Both goals were set up  by Singh, who received his first cap for Norway in their tour of Thailand this winter. With his contract runing out at the end of the season he as repeatedly said that he will not be extending it. It has lead coach Martin Andresen to prioritise other options offensively, but his pragmatic side will now surely see that a Singh desperate to put himself in the shop window for foreign clubs will contribute more to Vålerenga on the pitch than ‘learning his lesson’ on the bench.

Having lost to Brann in Bergen  in their opening fixture last yeah, it was a lot more comfortable looking Rosenborg who beat their rivals 3-1 in the reverse fixture on Sunday. Just nine minutes into his third spell at the club Steffen Iversen gave Rosenborg the lead, with Rade Prica securing the win nine minutes from time, his 47th goal in 79 league matches. It shows Rosenborg side with a depth of quality they didn’t enjoy last year, while also looking a lot more settled after having to do their main purchases in the summer transfer window last year, rather than before the season started.   This unexpected consistency of results was underlined by Tromsø’s 1-0 win over Fredrikstad, Czech striker Zdenek Ondrásek getting the goal on his debut, only two minutes after coming in the second half at a snow filled Alfheim.  

The character of these four teams – widely viewed as the most likely contenders for the title –  will be more severely tested in the next round when they all face tricky away ties. Molde go back to Haugesund to revenge that 5-0 defeat from last year, while Tromsø also travel down to the west coast to face an Aalesund side who came away from their trip to Stabæk with a goalless draw. However, the two most interesting games of the next round is arguably Lillestrøm – Rosenborg and Strømsgodset – Vålerenga. The first is a rivalry based on famous clashes in the past , while the latter is not only a game based on close geographical proximity, with a clear focus on the future. Strømsgodset have over the last few years been the most successful example of the youth-driven policy in Norwegian football necessitated by financial constraints, and while Vålerenga also have talented youngster, the club seems to be caught between whether to give them time to fully develop or trying to buy themselves a quicker way to success with their inherent economic power.

Results round 1: Molde – Strømsgodset 2-1; Hønefoss – Lillestrøm 0-0; Vålerenga – Haugesund 2-1; Odd Grenland – Sogndal 0-4; Stabæk – Aalesund 0-0; Tromsø – Fredrikstad 1-0; Rosenborg – Brann 3-1; Sandnes Ulf – Viking 2-2.

You can get all the stats and watch free (and legal) highlights of every games at the altomfotball.no website  Click on the result of each game and, eh,  press play. This page will also include  all the match facts, line-ups and formations.

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  1. […] of a Beating has not only some Tippeliga predictions from various internet luminaries, but also a handy roundup of the action in week […]


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