Posted by: Christian Wulff | April 25, 2012

Musings on Round 5

For their second successive home game Rosenborg had the privilege of hosting a top of the table clash on Sunday. While the first one against relegation-tipped Sogndal had been unexpected, the visit from Tromsø was the first match-up between two genuine title contenders this season. And while their game against Sogndal had fizzled out in a highly frustrating goal-less draw, Rosenborg this time came out on top with a highly convincing 3-0 score line, putting them top of the league for the first time since they won it in 2010. But while the result seemed impressive, there wasn’t much between the sides at Lerkendal.  In fact, Tromsø could easily have taken the lead in the first half. Thomas Kind Bendiksen was twice allowed space and time between the Rosenberg lines, and twice thread an excellent ball through to Marius Andersen. Andersen dragged his first effort just wide, while Daniel Örlund stood tall and saved his second attempt.

It took a defensive mistake by the most consistent of Tromsø players, Ruben Yttergård Jensen, to break the deadlock just after the hour mark. Trying to shield the ball out for a goal-kick, the midfielder was hoodwinked by Borek Dockal, who nipped in and laid the ball back out to Markus Henriksen. The very talented midfielder still had a lot to work to do when he received the ball at a sharp angle 10 yards out, but he completed it impressively. One quick touch set up an even quicker strike which whizzed by Benny Lekström in the Tromsø goal. After that, the result was hardly in doubt. Mikael Dorsin’s quick reactions helped double Rosenborg’s lead eight minutes later, before Jonas Svensson’s neat finish from a Dorsin pass wrapped up the win in injury time.

A warm glow of familiarity has spread throughout Norwegian football again with Rosenborg back on top, but while they seem to have a lot more resolve and stability than last year, they still haven’t showed the consistent quality that would see them have any chance of running away with the title. Tromsø failed in their first real test of the season but their performance also confirmed that they once again have the potential to pose a serious title challenge. They get another chance to continue their flat-track bully routine this weekend at home to Hønefoss, although the promoted side have showned some real quality themselves lately…

Among the two promoted teams, Hønefoss have always looked the more likely to survive in the top-flight this year. Having been relegated from Tippeligaen after only one season in 2010, they bounced straight back up last year, their squad now stronger and a lot more exciting in terms of offensive talent. Drawing their first three games, they performed a smash-and-garb win away to Stabæk in the last round, but really came alight this week with a 3-1 win at home against Aalesund. The talk before the season had been mostly about their African strike partnership of Remond Mendy and Kevin Beugre, the Senegalese and Ivorian getting a combined 25 goals in Adeccoligaen last year. But the real revelation this season has been the Finnish playmaker with the wonderful name;  Riku Riski.

Arriving from Widzew Lodz in Poland this winter, the 22 year old have scored four goals in the last two matches. Against Stabæk he converted a disputed penalty and finished off a great counter-attacking move, and for his first goal against Aalesund he chased down a terrible backpass from the visitor’s captain Daniel Arnefjord and slid the ball home just before goalkeeper Sten Grytebust clattered into him. The Finn saved the best for last when he received a ball on the edge of the penalty area 14 minutes from time, and with one quick chip and turn he went past the hapless Arnefjord, before powering the ball past Grytebust. Quick, energetic and with a low centre of gravity, Risiki already looks an excellent asset for Hønefoss, the creative spark so vital for promoted teams to turn determination and fighting spirit into tangible results.

I will come back to Vålerenga – the team that keeps on giving in terms of ideas for snarky and sarcastic blog posts – when I look at the first round of the Norwegian Cup next week, but in this round they finally got the result their performance deserved. Which was a 2-0 defeat at home against a spirited Sogndal side, who together with Rosenborg and Hønefoss are the only teams still undefeated. For a team that was again expected to fight against relegation it’s a remarkable start, especially away from home. Of the league total of five away wins this season, Sogndal have two of them – their other away game a draw against Rosenborg. This weekend Sogndal host the champions Molde in a west-coast derby that will be a very interesting test for both teams; Sogndal still without a home win, Molde without a single point away.

Molde did manage to keep up their 100% record at home, although not in a very convincing matter, needing two goals in the last five minutes to beat Lillestrøm 3-2. It has not been the most impressive of league starts for Solskjær’s men, but it is worth remembering that they now have one more point after five games than in their title winning season last year. Lillestrøm deserved more, which is the story that keeps repeating itself this year. They will hopefully be able to turn decent performances into more points soon, but they need to rectify a very ugly statistical fact first;  this was their 15th league game in a row without a win.   

Round 5 results: Vålerenga – Sogndal  0-2,   Haugesund – Brann 2-1, Strømsgodset – Viking 1-0, Hønefoss – Aalesund 1-3, Odd Grenland – Fredrikstad 1-1, Sandnes Ulf – Strabæk 2-1, Rosenborg – Tromsø 3-0, Molde – Lillestrøm 3-2

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

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