My STV Sport blog on round 2 in Tippeligaen looks at the homecomings of Per Joar Hansen and Kjetil Rekdal, two coaches whose experiences in the 2005 season very much defined their return to their previous clubs.

Posted by: Christian Wulff | March 20, 2013

Ridiculous, Odd and Brian Deane – Tippeligaen Round 1

All the highlights from the first round of Tippeligaen are at the bottom of the page, feel free to scroll past some of my random musings to get there.

Ridiculous times

Over the last decade Tippeligaen have seen its total income from television rights more than triple. At the same time, there have been five consecutive seasons of falling attendances.  In 2007, the year with the highest average gate in Tippeligaen, the games were played over three days with all but two of them played at 6pm on Sundays, the classic kick-off time for the two top divisions in Norway.  The increased influence of television paymasters seemed to have reached it nadir during the last two seasons when the eight weekly games were spread over four days and five different kick-off times.

Those irregular starting times are together with the proliferation of televised games (all games can be seen live on TV or online) and rising ticket prices the main reasons for falling attendances, which decreased to 7000 a game last season from the high of 10500 in 2007.

With the start of a new TV deal this year, the weekly fixtures are back to being played over three days but there is now even less consistency to when the games kick-off, being spread out over six different times. There are now only three games kicking off at the Sunday 6pm slot, the Norwegian FA more than happy to oversee the decimation of a tradition that was just as integral to the identity of Tippeligaen as the Saturday 3pm kick-off had been to football in Britain.

The difference to the Barclay’s Premier League is that Tippeligaen cannot point to high attendances in its defence. In fact, there isn’t a defence for this ridiculous set-up. Then again, with a pile load of money there doesn’t have to be one.

Ridiculous goals

One thing the ridiculous fixture list didn’t prevent during the first weekend of Tippeligaen action, was the amount of ridiculously good goals being scored. There were powerful low (Michael Barrantes second against Haugesund) and high (Mike Jensen’s winner for Rosenborg) long-range shots from open play, in addition to Torgeir Børven exquisitely  placed shot from 20 yards to give Vålerenga a consolation goal in Bergen.

Jesper Mathisen’s thunderbolt of a free-kick  flew in behind Steve Clark from over 30 yards to open Start’s scoring against Hønefoss, while Thomas Kind Bendiksen caressed his free-kick up and over the Sogndal wall for Tromsø’s equaliser. In Bergen, Fredrik Haugen’s sweetly placed half-volley was then eclipsed by a rasping full volley from his team-mate Kristoffer Larsen.

Even after all that, there will be some preferring 18-year-old Mohammed Elyounoussi’s two great finishes against Lillestrøm – the first a delightful turn followed by a heavy shot into the corner, the second an ice-cool lob over goalkeeper Kenneth Udjus after being put through on goal by Tom-Erik Breive. Breive, incidentally, had the greatest goal that never was this weekend, his dipping free-kick crashing into the underside of the bar before hitting Udjus and trickling out for a corner, inches past the post. A goal there would perhaps have been too ridiculous.

Home & Away

Aalesund continue their great pre-season form and easily dispatch Haugesund 3-0 at home. Apparently this means that Jan Jönsson has another medal contender on his hand, fresh from leading Rosenborg to 2nd and 3rd place over the last two seasons. I would hold those horses for a little while longer.

Away from the artificial pitch in Aalesund the team only won once last season, the worst record in the league (even the hapless Stabæk won two). Haugesund in turn won only three away games last year, all against opponents playing on their favoured natural grass pitches. Both are teams that relied on their familiar surroundings of a preferred surface and a vocal and passionate home supports for their mid-table achievements over the last few season. And while I’d like nothing better than for the eclectic Aalesund team, with their mixture of young Norwegian talent and their experienced foreign imports, intensely backed by a football-loving town, to succeed in Tippeligaen I’m just not fully convinced that they will. Yet.

Not too Odd after all

Speaking of predicting good seasons, I had been very tempted to do the opposite for Odd Grenland, even contemplating a ‘hey, check out my brave but probably really profoundly insightful prediction’, tipping them for relegation. In the end, there were just too many clear relegation candidates to realistically think that Odd might go down. And even after losing their first game of the season against Rosenborg that would have looked a very foolhardy prediction now. They were a Frode Johnsen missed penalty away from taking the lead and maybe the win against Rosenborg. And while they might struggle to score goals, especially after losing maybe Norway’s most talented centre-forward, Torgeir Børven, to Vålerenga mid-way through last season they still have two of the biggest defensive talents in the country in centre-half Fredrik Semb Berge and goalkeeper André Hansen. Together with the vast combined experience of Johnsen and Morten Fevang, in addition to Tippeligaen stalwarts such as Jone Samulsson, Odd have the organisation and know-how to easily survive this season. That’s me told.

Greatly different expectations

Two seasons ago Molde and Sarpsborg 08 ended up top and bottom of Tippeligaen. The latter didn’t win a single away game that year, but when they were 2-0 up in the second half at Lillestrøm Brian Deane must have thought that he would be gaining an accolade far more impressive than being the Premier League’s first ever goal-scorer; the first coach to lead Sarpsborg to a Tippeligaen away win.

Alas, two quick Lillestrøm goals meant they had to hang on for a point in the end, but they have already shown enough quality to indicate that they are unlikely to be the kind of whipping boys they were two years ago. Mind you, that year they won their first four home games, before they took only 8 points from the last 22 games (including a win on the final day). At least with the draw against Lillestrøm they are only two points away from equalling their away tally from that year.

The first of those early home wins for Sarpsborg two years ago was against Molde. The latter seems to have made a habit of starting the season slowly under Solskjær’s reign. In 2011 they won only two of their first six games, while they lost their first three away games last season. So they won’t be too worried about their opening day loss in Stavanger, but their road to a third straight league championship will undoubtedly be tougher this year. Both their title rivals from last season in Rosenborg and Strømsgodset have improved their teams, while Brann, Tromsø and Viking together constitutes a much higher range of quality in the top-half.  And then there is Aalesund. Maybe.

Round 1 results and highlights from altomfotball.no

Viking – Molde 2-1

Aalesund – Haugesund 3-0

Brann – Vålerenga 3-1

Lillestrøm – Sarpsborg 2-2

Strømsgodset – Sandnes Ulf 2-0

Start – Hønefoss 3-2

Sogndal – Tromsø 2-2

Odd – Rosenborg 0-1

Posted by: Christian Wulff | March 15, 2013

#NorwegianFootballinEnglish Tippeligaen Predictions 2013

Last year this blog presented the first ever #NorwegianfootballinEnglish Tippeligaen predictions, and with that snappy hashtag it was no wonder literally tens of people viewed the crystal ball musings of a curious group of people afflicted by the need to tweet about Norwegian football in, well, English. That brave, inaugural group of four have this year doubled to eight, all now having to endure a excruciating wait until the 2nd annual AHBMCAs are decided in November. 

The combined predictions of all these Norwegian football hipsters will hopefully give some indication on what to expect from Tippeligaen this season, but let me first introduce them and their tips for the upcoming year.

Paul Gundersen’s (@Gundo10) twitter avatar is Ole Gunnar Solskjær, neatly encapsulating his two main football passions; Norway and Manchester United. However, it has not stopped him from predicting that Solskjær won’t lead Molde to their third straight league championship this season. Ben Cullimore’s pedigree as a Tippeligaen predictor is impeccable, having come third in the AHBMCAs last year. He runs @thenorsenetwork which covers football throughout the Nordic countries, in addition to writing a blog on Tippeligaen for @bpfootball. Ben can also be shouted at through his personal Twitter account, @bencullimore.

Capture pb

Brendan Husebø (@BrendanHusebo) puts his very extensive and detailed knowledge of several leagues to very good use on Twitter, but his one true football love will always be Brann and Tippeligaen. Having faith enough in Molde to predict another successful defence of their title, his fourth place tip for Brann is surprisingly not the highest prediction for the team from Bergen. That belongs to Chris Eastwood, the man behind the account @norskfotball, solely dedicated to Norwegian football. He has Brann in 3rd place, while his 5th place prediction for Strømsgodset is their lowest this year.

Capture bc

James Morgan (@FRfotballJamesM) is the Tippeligaen analyst for @FootballRadar, a website that produces estimates of football matches by using statistical data modelling. James has also estimated that Molde will fall to third place this season. The same is also predicted by Rob Brown (@robbro7). When he doesn’t fawn over Sergio Busquets on Twitter, he usually writes on all thing football for @Sabotage Times and The Carvalho Peninsula.

Capture rj 

The Twitter bio of Rhodri Lewis (@rhodrijava) is certainly the only one that includes the sentence ‘Tweets am bel-droed Norwyeg ac eraill’. Wales’ biggest Norwegian football enthusiast is alone in predicting that Strømsgodset will go one better than last year and lift their first league trophy since 1970.  That only leaves yours truly (@ahellofabeating), the inaugural winner of the AHBMCAs, lest we forget. Catering to the incredible demand for Norwegian football in Scotland, I will very much try to honour my commitment to the lovely people at @ stvsport for a weekly blog on Tippeligaen throughout this season, after covering the last ten rounds for them last year.

Capture cr

By calculating the league positions for each team the combined wisdom of the #NorwegianfootballinEnglish twitterers is reflected in this final Tippeligaen 2013 table:

                               Capture final2

So the main headline is that Rosenborg will reclaim the league title after two years of Solskjær rule, with Strømsgodset repeating their success of last season by taking another medal.

A clear picture also emerges below the top three contenders. Brann, Vålerenga and Tromsø are predicted to compete for 4th to 6th place, with a jump down to a very close group of four, made up of Viking, Aalesund, Lillestrøm and Haugesund.

Odd Grenland is the odd team out, apparently destined for 11th, while the relegation battle will be fought among Start, Sogndal, Sandnes Ulf, Sarpsborg and Hønefoss. Sarpsborg is awarded 15th place above Hønefoss by account of getting the single highest prediction, Rhodri having them in 11th place.

The biggest discrepancy within the group is in regards to Aalesund. A full 10 places is the difference between Paul and Rhodri’s predictions for Jan Jönsson’s team.  There is also disagreement around the fate of Haugesund and Tromsø, with a difference of 7 and 6 places respectively among the group.

How wrong these predictions actually are we will start to find out from tonight, when Viking host Molde in the first match of the 2013 Tippeligaen season.

Posted by: Christian Wulff | November 22, 2012

Predictions Mea Culpa – The First Annual AHBMCAs

It’s the day of reckoning for three esteemed twitterers (and myself) who write about Norwegian football in English. The first A Hell of Beating Mea Culpa Award (AHBMCA) for accurate Tippeligaen predictions has been finalised and the winner is, eh, me. But first, let’s have a look at how our predictions eight months ago face up to reality.

Tippeligaen 2012 ended like this:

1. Molde

2. Strømsgodset

3. Rosenborg

4. Tromsø

5. Viking

6. Brann

7. Haugesund

8. Vålerenga

9. Lillestrøm

10. Odd Grenland

11. Aalesund

12. Sogndal

13. Hønefoss

14. Sandnes Ulf

15. Fredrikstad

16. Stabæk

Our combined predictions were:

1. Molde

2. Rosenborg

3. Vålerenga

4. Tromsø

5. Viking

6. Brann

7. Aalesund

8. Lillestrøm

9. Odd Grenland

10. Strømsgodset

11. Haugesund

12. Fredrikstad

13. Stabæk

14. Sandnes Ulf

15. Hønefoss

16. Sogndal

A decent attempt, with five correct placements (Molde, Tromsø, Viking, Brann and Sandnes Ulf), two teams one place away from the correct position (Lillestrøm and Odd), and one team two places away (Hønefoss). Using the newly invented AHBMCAs rules (3 points for correct place prediction, 2 points for 1 place away, 1 point for 2 places away) the average prediction table gets 18 points.

The positive and negative surprises of the year are instantly clear; We tipped Strømsgodset a full eight places lower than their impressive second place with Vålerenga the disappointment, finishing five places lower than predicted.

When we look at the individual predictions, Vegard Flemmen Vaagbø (@RBFlemma) and Ben Cullimore (@thenorsenetwork) both get 16 points andboth had two correct positions predicted. Ben claims third place by virtue of having five predictions only one place away from the final outcome compared to Vegard’s four.

@RBFlemma

1. Molde

2. Rosenborg

3. Lillestrøm

4. Viking

5. Aalesund

6. Vålerenga

7. Brann

8. Tromsø

9. Strømsgodset

10. Haugesund

11. Odd Grenland

12. Fredrikstad

13. Stabæk

14. Sandnes Ulf

15. Hønefoss

16. Sogndal

Correct placement: Molde, Sandnes Ulf

One away: Rosenborg, Viking, Brann, Odd Grenland

Two away: Vålerenga, Hønefoss

16 points

Furthest away – team doing better than predicted: Strømsgodset – 7 places

Furthest away – team doing worse than predicted: Lillestrøm and Aalesund – 6 places

@thenorsenetwork

1. Molde

2. Rosenborg

3. Tromsø

4. Vålerenga

5. Brann

6. Odd Grenland

7. Strømgodset

8. Haugesund

9. Viking

10. Aalesund

11. Stabæk

12. Fredrikstad

13. Lillestrøm

14. Sandnes Ulf

15. Sogndal

16. Hønefoss

Correct placement: Molde, Sandnes Ulf

One away: Rosenborg, Tromsø, Brann, Haugesund, Aalesund

16 points

Furthest away – team doing better than predicted: Strømsgodset – 5 places

Furthest away – team doing worse than predicted: Stabæk -5 places

So it was down to the esteemed Brendan Husebø (@brendanhusebo) and myself to see who would win the first annual AHBMCA award and it was every bit as nail biting as the Tippeligaen title run in with one point the difference in the end. Brendan had an incredible six teams within one place of their correct position, but only two teams in the correct position means that I reluctantly have to award myself the award. Key to my glorious victory was getting four teams in the correct position, Hønefoss’ late collapse helping me to a famous win.

@brendanhusebo

1. Molde

2. Rosenborg

3. Vålerenga

4. Brann

5. Viking

6. Tromsø

7. Aalesund

8. Lillestrøm

9. Odd Grenland

10. Haugesund

11. Strømsgodset

12. Fredrikstad

13. Sandnes Ulf

14. Hønefloss

15. Stabæk

16. Sogndal

Correct placement: Molde, Viking

One away: Rosenborg, Lillestrøm, Odd Grenland, Sandnes Ulf, Hønefoss, Stabæk

Two away: Brann, Tromsø

20 points

Furthest away – team doing better than predicted: Strømsgodset – 9 places

Furthest away – team doing worse than predicted: Vålerenga – 5 places

@ahellofabeating

1. Molde

2. Rosenborg

3. Vålerenga

4. Tromsø

5. Viking

6. Odd Grenland

7. Brann

8. Lillestrøm

9. Aalesund

10. Strømsgodset

11. Haugesund

12. Fredrikstad

13. Hønefoss

14. Stabæk

15. Sogndal

16. Sandnes Ulf

Correct placement: Molde, Tromsø, Viking, Hønefoss

One away: Rosenborg, Brann, Lillestrøm

Two away: Stabæk, Sandnes Ulf, Aalesund

21 points

Furthest away – team doing better than predicted: Strømsgodset – 8 places

Furthest away – team doing worse than predicted: Vålerenga – 5 places

The AHBMCAs will return next season with hopefully an even larger array of predictions as the Norwegian Football in English family slowly but steadily grows on Twitter.

The last three rounds of Tippeligaen 2012 past in a blur, but luckily I was able to capture everything on my STV Sport blog. First,a late Péter Kovács header meant Strømsgodset came to within one point of Molde as the reigning champions draw at Tromsø. But in the very next game, Molde was crowned champions again, after Sandnes Ulf rumbled Godset, a routine 1-0 enough for Solskjær’s team. The last round was all about the relegation battle, with the original aristocrats of Norwegian football Fredrikstad in the end going down with nothing but a whimper.

Round 27 of Tippeligaen saw Molde finally beat Rosenborg in a decisive league game to take back the top spot in the league and a giant step towards defending the title, as I’ve written way too many words about for STV Sport.  

You can see what it meant to them with this view from the middle of the Molde fans behind the goal, Ole Gunnar Solskjær sliding celebration seen in the background after Etzaz Hussain rolls the ball into the empty net for Molde’s second goal.   

Full highlights:  Molde – Rosenborg 2-0  

Two days earlier, Strømsgodset refused to concede their hopes of a first league title in 42 years, with late late winner away to Haugesund, Peter Kovacs scoring with the last touch of the ball in the whole game; five seconds after the allotted injury time had been played. Haugesund had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside only minutes before.

Haugesund – Strømsgodset 2-3

Sandnes Ulf climbed out of the relegation zone and above Fredrikstad with a thumbing 5-1 win on Saturday. Fredrikstad had scored first, and only a great save from young Sandnes Ulf goalkeeper Sean McDermott prevented them from regaining the lead in the first half, the home team pushing on for a comfortable and crucial win after it.

Sandnes Ulf – Fredrikstad 5-1

Lillestrøm pretty much secured their survival with a great away win in Bergen, the second of Mathis Bolly’s two goal well worth checking out. Stabæk is relegated after Viking grabbed a late winner against them, while Sogndal could only manage a draw at home to Aalesund, leaving them still dangerously close to a relegation or play-off place.

Odd Grenland – Hønefoss 4-0

Sogndal – Aalesund 1-1

Stabæk – Viking 0-1   

Vålerenga – Tromsø 1-0

Brann – Lillestrøm 2-3

The 26th round of Tippeligaen 2012 was the first of three were the three title contenders would all face each other. In Drammen, Ronny Deila and Ole Gunnar Solskjær faced off in a battle between the two brightest young coaches in Norwegian football, which I’ve covered in my blog for STV Sport

Well worth checking out the highlights of that intense match between Strømsgodset and Molde, especially for Adam Larsen Kwarasey’s great save in the second half to keep Godset in the match and Jarl-André Storbæk’s great volley which saved a point for the home team

Strømsgodset – Molde 1-1

Rosenborg went top of the league after being awarded a very dodgy penalty against Sandnes Ulf, somewhat made up for by the excellent build up to their second goal, which Mikael Dorsin finished nicely.

Rosenborg – Sandnes Ulf 2-0

Fredrikstad and Brann played out a quite ridiculous game on the Monday night, Brann’s 20 year old midfielder Kristoffer Larsen putting in a brilliant display, getting his second goal in two games in only his fourth start for the club.

Sten Grytebust and Lars Hirschfeld held a fascinating duel in the game between Aalesund and Vålerenga, trying to outdo each other in making the biggest goalkeeping error. Grytebust started well by completely messing up an easy cross to let Mohamed Fellah but the visitors in front, but Hirschfeld easily surpassed that through his horrendous handling of Michael Barrantes long-range shot. Barrantes then gave Aalesund the lead with another terrific long-ranger.

 

Lillestrøm – Odd Grenland 1-1

Hønefoss – Stabæk 0-0 

Tromsø – Haugesund 2-0

Viking – Sogndal 2-1

Aalesund – Vålerenga 3-1

Fredrikstad – Brann 3-4    

You can find the updated league table here.

Posted by: Christian Wulff | October 11, 2012

Round 25 – Contenders take their positions before title race ignites

Week 25 in Tippeligaen was all about setting the scene for the big matches to follow. All three title contenders will face each other in the next three rounds after the international break, with Molde edging slightly ahead after their last-gasp win over Sandnes Ulf.

I’ve chronicled all the action in my blog for STV Sport.

Among all the highlights below, make sure to check out Vegard Forren’s spectacular free-kick to give Molde a vital win and Alexander Lund Hansen’s astonishing save against Odd Grenland. Strømsgodset missed some great changes against Vålerenga and left Oslo with only a draw, Peter Kovacs the biggest culprit with his miss in the first half.

17-year-old Bård Finne scored in his second home game in a row for Brann, who again came from a goal behind with a few minutes left to win, another youngster – Kristoffer Larsen – getting a superb deciding goal.

Otherwise, two late goals in Haugesund and Sogndal had great consequences for the relegation battle.

You can find the updated league table here

Vålerenga – Strømsgodset 1-1

Sogndal – Lillestrøm 1-0

Molde – Sandnes Ulf 3-2

Haugesund – Fredrikstad 1-0

Viking – Aalesund 1-1

Stabæk – Tromsø 0-1     

Odd Grenland – Rosenborg 0-1

Brann – Hønefoss 3-2

The Norwegian Cup semi-finals was the main subject of my STV Sport blog this week, looking at its illustrious history, some of its darker chapters and how Hødd, the fairytale team of this year’s competition, defeated Brann with the help of 16-year-old Fredrik Aursnes, reaching the final for the first time.

Highlights below:

Tromsø – Molde 2-1

Hødd – Brann 3-1

Week 24 in Tippeligaen saw both Rosenborg and Molde come out on top in two very entertaining matches that both provided seven goals. Strømsgodset made sure the top three is still locked within two points of each other with a close fought win over Brann. Tromsø completed a great week with a win against Aalesund, while Morten Berre scored another quintessential Morten Berre goal in Vålerenga’s away win over Fredrikstad.

Borek Dockal and Rade Prica’s goals against Haugesund (Rosneborg’s second and third) are my favourite goals of the week and you should also check out Stabæk’s shock opener against Molde, scoring after just 11 seconds through Franck Boli.

Highlights below and updated league table here

Rosenborg – Haugesund 5-2

Lillestrøm – Viking 0-0

Molde – Stabæk 4-3

Hønefoss – Sogndal 0-0

Sandnes Ulf – Odd Grenland 0-0

Tromsø – Aalesund 1-0

Strømsgodset – Brann 2-0

Fredrikstad – Vålerenga 1-2

Posted by: Christian Wulff | September 26, 2012

Round 23 – Searching for a hero.

My weekly blog for STV Sport on the Tippeligaen action can be found here, with all the goals and highlights from week 23 below.

Watch out for Bjørn Helge’s Riise ridiculous strike against Aalesund, 17-year-old substitute Bård Finne’s two late goals that gave Brann the victory over Rosenborg and also a couple of stunning saves from Vålerenga keeper Gudmund Kongshavn in the second half against Hønefoss.

The updated league table and all the clips are form the excellent altomfotball.no website, who only demand 15 seconds of your time to watch a Norwegian commercial in order to let you view all this glorious football.

Viking – Strømsgodset 3-2

Aalesund – Lillestrøm 1-2

Haugesund – Sandnes Ulf 3-2

Sogndal – Tromsø 1-0

Stabæk – Fredrikstad 0-1

Odd Grenland – Molde 0-0

Brann – Rosenborg 2-1

Vålerenga – Hønefoss 3-2

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