They now sell beer at Tammela!

Ilves v KaaPo main stand

Yes folks, it’s true: there is a pay bar at Tammela Stadium now, for Ilves matches at least. I was so happy I bought a season ticket, but the woman refused to give a discount for the two games I’d missed. She surely knew the attraction of beer and football at Finland’s best ground.

Kakkonen has some really great, traditional clubs this year, and Ilves are right up there with the HIFK’s and KTP’s. They are one of the biggest junior clubs in Finland, with affiliate organisations all over the Tampere area and a top flight women’s side who play at Ratina. Their 5-0 win over KaaPa yesterday was an impressive performance both on the pitch, where Mikko Mäkelä and Aapo Lappalainen terrorised the Kaarina side’s defence.

The most impressive stuff was all off the pitch, however. It was a big crowd, with significant numbers of people in two stands – a rarity for any match at Tammela, never mind one at this level. Then there was the huge number of kids running around the place, excited to be playing for the same club that now has a pro side in the third tier of Finnish football. There was even something I have never seen before at a Finnish ground (although I’m sure it must happen, I’ve just missed it): autograph hunting. Here is Ilves’s Estonian winger Henri Erti obliging the kids during the first half:

Henri Erti signs autographs

Apologies for the sporadic and somewhat functional updates recently, I’ve been quite busy and the matches during May have come thick and fast. I will try and do a few posts I have been saving for a while in the next few weeks, including a competition to win a match-worn Sepsi shirt from the great Stanle Festus, something on the Nigerians who are powering Kajha up the Kolmonen table, and hopefully, if I can find it, a post about Roveniemen Markinoilla and Santtu the Rovaniemi Iskelmä commentator. Count the days, people, because next week I will be in a former leper colony and mental hospital off the Turku coast. If I can escape and get to Veritas on Monday, I will post about the Belarus game.

Veikkausliiga Round Eight

Lahti 1 Jaro 2

HJK 1 MyPa 1

TPS 0 IFK Mariehamn 0

KTP 0 Honka 0

KuPS 1 Inter 1

Click scores for highlights

I’ll talk about Haka and TamU later on, but a fairly uninspiring last round of fixtures before the Euro-break so far.

Veikkausliiga Round Eight preview

FC Lahti v FF Jaro

Lahti are missing Vanninen, while Jaro will be without Kullström, Je. Portin, Junnila, Koivisto, Svanbäck and Wargh. With Jaro in awful form following two 4-0 defeats, it should be a home win. But then this is Lahti…

TPS v IFK Mariehamn

TPS are without Valakari, Heinikangas, Ääritalo, Cleaver and Sarajärvi, and IFK will leave Norrmén, Sjölund, Rikama, Isaksson and Blomberg in Mariehamn. TPS are formidable at home and will be looking to put their campaign back on track.

HJK v MyPa

No players out bar the long-term injuries, but both teams will want to win to get back among the chasing pack behind Inter. It could well be a draw.

KTP v Honka

Honka don’t travel well, and even though KTP are without Ikävalko and Vartiainen I expect them to get something out of this game. They have to get a point sometime, don’t they? Honka travel without Koskinen, Patronen and possibly Weckström.

KuPS v Inter

Kinnaslampi, Hartikainen are out for kuPS, while Inter travel to Kuopio with a 17 man squad excluding Furuholm, who is out for the season, and Gustafsson, who played for Inter’s farm team Sinimustat yesterday.

Haka v RoPS

No injury news as yet, but it should be a home win after haka’s emphatic victory in Pietersaari. popvitch can still do the business, especially when his team mates also turn up to play.

VPS v TamU

Again, no team news, but TamU have never won in Vaasa. I’d be surprised if they did so tomorrow.

HK05: Hi-NRG tifo

Veikkausliiga round seven

Honka 1 HJK 0

MyPa 2 Lahti 0

TamU 4 KTP 2

Jaro 0 Haka 4

RoPS 1 TPS 0

IFK M 1 KuPS 1

Inter 2 VPS 0

Click score for highlights.

TamU played Daniel, and they won. Of course they did. Awful defending from KTP, and from TamU, with Obinna Okafor causing a lot of problems for Kuoppala and Lindström. They got away with a lot of fouls on him. KTP’s keeper and captain Janne Henriksson’s body language was a joy to behold. He got fantastically exasperated with his defenders, and at one point he bellowed very loudly at Olaf Hviden-Watson for wasting a good situation with an ill-thought out set piece. ‘OLAF! OLAF! Take a normal free kick next time! Fucking hell!’

Elsewhere Inter look to be running away with things, as Lahti and HJK drop points. RoPS keep up their tremendous home record by beating TPS, who have a lot of ground to make up now. It’s looking like Inter’s title to lose now.

Baxter on Veikkausliiga

Stuart Baxter’s been at a lot of games recently. He was at Haka-Tamu, with Arto Nyberg and Timo Walden, and he’s been to pretty much every TV game including the HJK-TamU match. Ari Virtanen interviewed him for Nelonen news about his thoughts on Veikkausliiga and Finnish football more generally, and you can watch his report here.

Veikkausliiga Round Seven preview

TamU v KTP

Sheweleff is the only absentee for TamU, Ikavalko for KTP in this relegation six-pointer. IF this isn’t a home win I’ll be surprised, but not so surprised that the odds on ladbrokes make sense. TamU are awful right now, and so are KTP. Anything could happen, and KTP are under significantly less pressure.

Honka v HJK

Koskinen and Haarala are out for Honka, Taulo for HJK. It’s a local derby, but HJK looked quite impressive the other day. It’s on UTV at 7pm.

Mariehamn v KuPS

IFK are missing Norrmén, Sjölund, Rikama, Isaksson, Ochieng, Binnion, Carlsson D, and Carlsson J. KuPS are without Kinnaslampi. KuPS have slightly better form and have done okay away from home.

Inter v VPS

Furuholm is out for Inter, VPS are at full strength. Funny feeling about this one, it’ll be an interesting test for Tim Sparv. I wish I could go and see it actually.

RoPS v TPS

TPS still have their midfielders out: Cleaver, Valakari, Sarajärvi, Heinikangas and Ääritalo. RoPS will be without Bauer. I expect RoPS to win.

Jaro v Haka

Kalle Parviainen is seeing a doctor today about the injury he picked up against MyPa, so haka’s defence will be weak. Jaro are without Jens Portin and Junnila, but they played okay against TPS despite losing 4-0. With Haka’s confidence very low, they could crumble once again if the first goal goes against them. With Popovitch anything is possible, and so long as Minninen is there to help provide an attacking focus Haka have a chance.

MyPa v Lahti

Äijälä and Agboh are out for MyPa. Vanninen and Shala will be missing from the Lahti squad. This is a big local derby, with Rafael returning to his former club, and should be a good atmosphere.

Blogs

There are a couple of new blogs I’ve been reading recently, and are well worth checking out. First up is Lisäajan Jälkeen, from Nelonen. There’s a great post on TamU’s problems, written by Ari Virtanen. It’s in Finnish.

Then there is Fjordball, the best english language blog about Norwegian football. Lars did a post about Juha Pasoja’s 45m wonder strike for HamKam, and the hyperbole with which it was greeted in the Norwegian tabloids. I can’t find the goal on youtube, but the pictures on the Dagbladet website are great. If you’ve ever thought that all Norwegians are tall, blond and beautiful, one look at the crowd shots will disabuse you of that notion. Great to see open mouthed anticipation at a football match, though.

HJK 5 TamU 1

HJK 5 TamU 1

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.

I have to say that Zico was the problem for TamU yesterday. It was clear to everyone, from the stewards and youth teams to the teenagers selling hot dogs, that Jari Niemi was awful against HJK. He was in midfield when he should have been in the box, he was in the box when he should have been back defending. He did virtually nothing for the team.

Daniel is TamU’s top scorer, and when he is on the pitch the opposition at least has something to think about and defend against. Niemi offers no such threat, being an entity separate from the rest of the team, occasionally having nice touches and deigning to pass to players he thinks are worthy of the honour. As one TamU fan said ‘Daniel busts his balls trying to score, Niemi just scratches his’. I don’t know why he’s playing like this, it could be some kind of mental turmoil, a lack of motivation, maybe he’s carrying an injury. You can’t blame him without knowing the full picture. But you can blame Ari Hjelm for continuing to play him when better alternatives exist.

Apart from a wonder goal, belted in off the bar by Medo, TamU played okay in the first half. Not too much went wrong, and they looked like a match for HJK in most areas. With a tighter attacking focus, provided by Daniel, they could easily have got something out of the game. Unfortunately, Zico over-thought things and completely re-organised the midfield and defence, moving Savolainen back into defence and Kujala forward into midfield, and taking James off for Saarinen. James had played okay up to that point, and it was an incomprehensible switch. Savolainen’s first two contributions in defence were to give away free-kicks, and Tomasz Sajdak filled his boots with some effective finishing.

You can see the effect having several good strikers has on HJK. Parikka, Sajdak, Mäkelä, Roiha and Bah can all play up front, and they all know they have to play well to stay in the team. Bah and Mäkelä missed chances and looked crestfallen – they know that goals get the manager’s attention, and give them more chance of playing where they want to (Bah started on the wing). You can not say the same about Tampere United’s forwards. Their top scorer was on the bench against HJK, and didn’t even feature against Lahti.

Hats off to Antti Muurinen though, his team is playing excellent stuff and will be strong contenders for the title this year.

6th round of Veikkausliiga

FC Lahti – FC Honka 1-0
FC Haka – MyPa 0-3
KooTeePee – Inter 0-2
RoPS – IFK Mariehamn 3-1
TPS – FF Jaro 4-0
VPS – KuPS 2-0

Click links for highlights.

Inter go on undefeated, but a defeat today would have been really something because they played KooTeePee. In addition, KooTeePee had Tamas Gruburovics sent off before half-time. Inter went cruising after that and Henri Lehtonen netted twice in the second half to give Inter a 2-0 win.

Honka succumbed to a loss at FC Lahti. Berat Sadik scored the winner and Honka were unable to get an equalizer. They scored during the final seconds of the game, but the assistant had his flag up and Lahti got all three points. Honka have tough times coming up because their next game will be an encounter with HJK.

Haka are dealing with the crisis concerning their European spot. The team is naturally saying that the problem has nothing to do with what is happening on the pitch, but speculation must arise as they have not won in four games now. Despite the fact that Haka had chances, MyPa were not the nicest visitors as the clubs met. The result was a saddening 3-0 for the visitors and Haka now have an awful goal difference, 0-10, from their last two games. Moreover, the people of Valkeakoski are not really giving Haka a helping hand. Tonight they were only backed by a crowd of 1192 people.

VPS won KuPS 2-0 in what was a two-goal night for Jyrki Hietaharju. KuPS did their best after Hietaharju scored his first of the night, but the second goal in the 67th minute was enough to see off the challenge of KuPS.

Newly-promoted RoPS have shown they are no pushovers. Tonight they equalized in the 50th minute after IFK Mariehamn had gone up by one, and the last 15 minutes of the game provided enough time for RoPS to secure a win.

TPS came on top by a surprisingly wide margin as they beat Jaro 4-0. As a TPS supporter I must admit that the scoreline does not reflect the game too much. TPS were not convincing at all in the first half and had all reasons to enjoy getting an undeserved one-goal lead following Sami Rähmönen’s strike. They got their act together to some extent for the second half, but Jaro still had chances and could have drawn on many occasions. That never happened. Instead, Armand One scored his first of the campaign and provided chances for Kasper Hämäläinen and Mikko Paatelainen who finished the job.

HJK-TamU is the remaining game of the sixth round and will take place on Monday. The game is vital for TamU. Even if the silverware is kept hidden in a closet until late October, they only have three or four points after seven games if they lose or draw tomorrow. Besides, they have already played the biggest title candidates, TPS and HJK and are in trouble if they have won neither of the games. It’s only May, but seven games out of twenty-six is quite a lot.