Haka 3 Jaro 1

Jaro went down 3-1 at Haka on Friday, leaving them in 3rd place in Group B with 9 points from 5 games. With the top four in each group progressing to the quarter finals, they should be confident enough, but they’ll have to perform better than they did on Friday if they want to win the tournament.

That’s assuming they do want to win the tournament, of course. The League Cup is not the most prestigious competition in Finland, with last year’s winners Lahti having a topsy turvy season that ended with them losing their coach to HJK. The year before that KuPs won it and were relegated, the year before that it was AC Allianssi, who went bankrupt. It could reasonably be seen as more of a curse than anything else, and clubs don’t tend to take it too seriously.

In Pietersaari things are different, though. Jaro have the best attendance figures in the competition, but Peter Lundström of Veikkausliiga felt this had more to do with the wistful melancholy loneliness of life in Southern Ostrobothnia than any great passion for football.

“I’m happy that they have such good attendance figures up there,” Lundström told Jakobstads Tidning. “Although the biggest fan base is in the capital region, HJK find it difficult to get numbers like that. Maybe it’s because there isn’t much else to do in Pietersaari.”

Maybe so, but Jaro still brought a small band of fans to the ‘Sahara’ astroturf of Valkeakoski on Friday. And they live in Turku, so the lack of alternative entertainment cannot plausibly explain their presence. They were not too impressed with their side’s performance, but offered as an explanation the flu bug that had spread through the Jaro squad – apparently a few of the players were suffering but still played against Haka.

Mikko Manninen got two goals, Sebastian Strandvall the other, with a Mikko Hyyrynen penalty as consolation for Jaro. It seems as though Haka are a solid, consistent side and could go one of two ways: self satisfaction and stagnation, or developing an ability to grind out results. Strandvall is one of those who will be a key player for them. He has a lot of energy and can dominate his wing, if he can play more consistently and confidently they will have a very formidable side.

Compared with the major surgery Hjelm is carrying out on the TamU squad, Haka have made very few changes. They should be comfortable with each other and be starting to hit a groove this year. If they can’t make a breakthrough they will have to look at the squad and the manager – it can’t be cheap to have so many pretty established players on the books.

Jaro, on the other hand, look every inch a mid-table team. They’ll have no bother with relegation, especially when they get Matrone and Portin back from international duty (the Under 23 squad is in the USA right now). Jonas Emet was also missing due to flu, and he needs to knuckle down and show what he can do. Still young enough to get a big move or end up without a club, it’ll be a big season for him.

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