New Champions

There will be new Veikkausliiga champions this year. HJK lost 3-2 at home to Jaro last night, and today’s papers are enjoyably miserable for anyone who didn’t want HJK to win it. Jussi Aalto got two of the goals, and HJK missed a lot of chances, but in the end it was Aalto’s clinical finishing that showed his old club the way.

Iltasanomat was predictably miserable about the crowd, which was just over 2,000, and the fact that Sakari Mattila is probably going to go to Italy at the end of the season. There’s nothing much to be said about the first, apart from pointing out that Finnair Stadium is yet another Finnish ground that seems to have been designed with total contempt for the paying fan.

IS took the low figure as an indication that Helsinki people don’t have faith in HJK this year, which is depressing enough. They still have to qualify for Europe somehow, and they could easily mess that up if Lahti have a good run-in. The title is not impossible, especially as Honka still have to play Inter away, so it’s difficult to see exactly what the problem is. There wasn’t even a hockey match HJK could blame for the poor turn-out.

As for Mattila going abroad, well…. what do you want to do about it? HJK get rid of lots of players every year and get highly paid replacements. Aalto was better than the foreign returnees Roiha and Oravainen, and is, most likely, a hell of a lot cheaper. Tamasz Sajdak just left HJK because he wasn’t getting playing time thanks to the excellent form of Jarno Parika, but why was he signed in the first place? And how much money did HJK waste on that signing?

Honka and Inter both sign good young players and don’t stand in their way if and when they want to move abroad. That’s the only way for any Finnish club to operate, HJK included, and they could do worse than investigate why they have wasted talent like Aalto’s.

All that said, Mika Laurikainen’s team are playing some lovely stuff at present. They move the ball quickly, have pace on and off the ball, their striker Mikko Hyyrynen is in great form, and they have a lot of confidence at the moment. They were very good at Haka last week, and you wonder what they will achieve next year if they can keep this group of players together.

Highlights here

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