Inter Turku 2 FF Jaro 0 FT – Inter are 2008 Veikkausliiga Champions!

Watch the match from YLE’s stream here(click the link)

Full time: Inter win the league, and Mika Mäkitalo does a tremendous sliding tackle on Stefan Håkans, Inter owner who always stands next to the bench. Celebrations in full swing now, I need that hot rum to warm my frozen fingers….

88 mins: Ojala tried twice to throw his shirt into the crowd, and failed, swinging it behind him onto the pitch. People are celebrating now, with the people behind me banging their tables and pint glasses. I’m going to get myself a drink.

87 mins: Timo Furuholm is about to come on, after warming up for the entire second half. He celebrated the goal wwell, maybe that’s what persuaded Dragtsma to bring him on. Ojala to come off.

85 mins: Abramovic cuts in from the left, and scores in the bottom left corner with his right foot. Cool finish, and it looks to be all over now, surely?

82 mins: Inter are still looking for the clincher, and Ojala floats in a free kick that just whistles over the top.

77 mins: portin is booked for a late challenge on Chatto, and Ojala blasts the free kick out of the ground. Inter are getting stretched at times by jaro. At the moment Hooiveld and Corpache are coping well, but it only takes one clearance into a puddle for Jaro to get a chance, and they are well capable of taking it.

74 mins: Roiko misses the target from ten yards out. Grot gets the ball in space down the other end but his shot is then deflected for a corner.

72 mins: My fingers are falling off here, it’s freezing. Might have to go get a hot rum. Lahti are now leading HJK 1-0 in Helsinki, which would mean they finish third and push HJk out of the european places.

68 mins: Mannström limps off, but he will surely stay on and stand still rather then reduce his side to ten men. Ojala puts in a good shot but it’s straight at the keeper. Inter need another goal before they can really relax here.

62 mins: It’s not so much a swamp now, as an extension of the Baltic sea. Hyyrynen decks it and water sprays everywhere. It’s not football, it’s a slid tackle contest.

61 mins: Another correction, Roiko came on for Koivisto, and the new keeper is Koljander. WLAN is playing up a bit now too, so updates might become more sporadic.

59 mins: Correction, it was Mäkitalo who slid into Karnio, not Ojala.

57 mins: And Karnio no comes off for Roiko. It was always going to happen, lets just hope he’s not seriously injured.

55 mins: Jaro fans don’t often sing in Finnish, but they prefer to let the referee know in his own language (rather than Swedish) that he should give a red card when Ojala goes in hard on the keeper Karnio. Bantamoi has changed into a nice clean shirt at half time, the prima donna. Substitution for Jaro, Tuomanen off for Kosela.

52 mins: Grot plays in Mäkitalo, who overruns the ball for the first time in the game. Hyyrynen grins a bit when he’s heckled from the stands, but I don’t think he is fooled by the advice that ‘the goal is in the corner’.

50 mins: It’s 2-2 in Mariehamn – this one ain’t over yet.

48 mins: Karnio is quick out of his goal to take the ball off Ojala’s toes, but Inter waste the throw in.

Finnish people really don’t know how to behave in crowds. If you bump into someone, you should say *something* – it doesn’t have to be ‘sorry’, but some acknowledgement that you didn’t intend to barge them out of the way is only polite. I am always saying ‘anteeksi’ at big matches, and no other fucker does…. The teams are back out and we’re about to get underway. I expect Furuholm to come on for Grot soon.

Half time: Good performance from both teams, in the circumstances. I’m still amazed that the game is taking place, and would not like the championship to turn on the ball stopping dead in a puddle, but Inter seem to be doing the job so far.

44 mins: Anbramovic is showing good strength in neotiating the swamp outside the box, but his shot after a one-on-one is saved. Inter will be glad to attack the other, less marsh-like half after the break.

42 mins: Paajanen turns his man, but can only chip his cross-shot over the bar. It is still absolutely pissing it down.

38 mins: This really is utterly ridiculous. Grot wins the ball in a puddle-based scrum, goes forward, but slips and falls on the edge of the D. Mannström then has a shot from the corner of Inter’s box, forcing a brilliant save from Bantamoi, and from the resulting corner Inter clear off the line.

36 mins: IFK go 2-1 up in Mariehamn!

34 mins: Ojala goes down clutching his right knee after a heavy challenge, but no booking is given. Paajanen does the same, and Chatto has also been kicked a bit.

31 mins: Jaro seem to be making a better fist of playing in these conditions, with Seba Manströmm in particular causing problems down the left. Bantamoi is is usual eccentric self, with sometimes erratic distribution combining with great saves.

21 mins: Jaro are having a good little spell, aided by the difficulty Inter are having clearing the ball along the ground. Grot demonstrates this with a move that breaks down when the ball stops dead in a puddle, as the announcer lets everyone know that Honka have equalised.

20 mins: I think so, ralf, yes, but I will check and report back.

15 mins: The referee seems to bottle a penalty decision as Ojala gets fouled in the box, giving a free kick right on the edge instead. Ojala leathers it in, and it skids out for a corner. It’s still pissing it down, and I would like to reiterate my concern that one of these players (including some of Finland’s brightest young talents, on both sides), might get injured because the referee decided to play in unsafe conditions. It’s not football, and I’ve seen games on better pitches postponed, as had coaches from Inter and Jaro before the game.

12 mins: IFK go 1-0 up against Honka.

8 mins: MyPa lead TamU 1-0 with a goal from Neemelo. Abramovic seems unsure what to do with the ball down the left, but eventually wins a corner. ojala to take, but it is eventually cleared by Hyyrynen.

6 mins: Goal for Inter! paajanen heads in from Ojala’s cross.

4 mins: Hyyrynen beats Sanevuori and fizzes the ball across goal, but there’s nobody there. It’s impossible to pass the ball out of defence, so hoofing it will be necessary.

1 min: This is farcical. Players are slipping and sliding all over the place, and the ball just does not move along the ground. If anyone gets an injury today, the referee of the year might face a lawsuit.

16:00: We’re ready to kick off, but the referee is waiting for a signal from YLE that the shipping forecast (or something) has finished. And they’re off. Inter kick left to right as the ball skids out of play in the corner with Ojala chasing.

15:59: The pre-match presentations include an anti-racism demonstration and awards for Ojala, Hooiveld, Bantamoi and Chatto. Inter really should win the title this year, given how well they’ve played up to now. As the Inter team has a photo taken the photographer – who looks like a fisherman lost in a storm – makes them turn round so they’re not in front of the Olympic Stand.

15:58: Here in Turku the players are entering the field, while there is momentous news from Åland – Aleksandr Kokko starts on the bench for Honka, leaving the field clear for Henri Myntti to take this year’s golden boot…

15:55: The Veikkausliiga anthem starts up, and the weird looking Inter mascot is waiting for the teams to come out. There is a decent crowd standing behind the goal to my left, and a great turnout from Jaro in the Olympic Stand. It takes some dedication to turn out for a game like this, as you’re very likely to get piss wet through, and I hope the numerous children behind that goal are not put off Veikkausliiga football for life.

15:50: There seem to be big queues at the ticket office, but they are unlikely to delay the start to ensure everyone gets in. The Olympic Stand looks about one third full, and for some reason the dugouts are on the near side – Inter have had them on the opposite side every other time I’ve been here. It looks a bit weird…

15:30: It’s still raining here. I’m thinking it could be very embarrassing if the title is decided by the ball stopping in a puddle in the penalty area, or the referee has to call it off halfway through. The Inter team are warming up in the wetter half of the pitch, and occasionally kicking at the puddles, and they seem to be acclimatising to the conditions. The Inter fans shouted something about ‘bad pitches’ when they came in, but have since settled down and sung a few more positive songs….

The teams are in:

Inter Turku: Bantamoi, Aho, Sanevuori, Corpache, Hooiveld, Chatto, Mäkitalo, Ojala, Paajanen, Abramovic, Grot.

FF Jaro: karnio, Storbacka, Kullström, Tuomanen, Matrone, Koivisto, Laurikainen, Simpson, Hyyrynen, Mannström, Jonas Portin.

15:00: When I had my first look at the pitch today, I didn’t actually walk on it, just dipped my toe into a puddle from the running track round the edge. Job Dragtsma wanted to make sure I saw just how crap it was though, and led me back out to show the huge areas covered in standing water. He’s been pacing around on and off ever since then, and just now showed Jos Hooiveld some areas at the ice rink end that he should be particularly wary of.

Everyone says it will be difficult to play football on this, indeed Inter people are saying that ‘it won’t be football’, and it was amusing to see the officials trying to find an area where the ball would roll rather than stopping dead during the pitch inspection. I’m not sure quite what would be necessary to get the game postponed, but it will certainly be a memorable occasion.

14:25: Pitch inspection completed, the game will be played. The standing water will be brushed off the pitch and they will cross their fingers it stops raining. Inter coaching staff are not too happy with the decision.

14:00: I just arrived at the ground, and the pitch looks a state. There is standing water, and the referee is about to make a pitch inspection.

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Veikkausliiga Round 25 preview, part 2

TamU beat Honka 4-3 in an entertaining game that saw TamU stir up the title race once again. A few weeks ago they got a home win against Inter and now the other title candidate was treated to a defeat at their hands.

FC Lahti – IFK Mariehamn

A win would guarantee IFK Mariehamn a place in Veikkausliiga for next year while the Black Drones could use a win too, as it would mean that the fate of bronze medals would then be decided in the last round of games.
IFK Mariehamn have suffered from injuries throughout the season and Arajuuri, Reed, Ochieng, Överström, Blomberg and Chilom are still out. FC Lahti have no injuries apart from Jere Pitkälä, who has been missing for a long time. So yes, the King will play.
It will probaly be an even game as both teams have something to play for. However, I think the home team’s quality and their willingness to bring home the first medals in the club’s history is enough to see off the threat of IFK Mariehamn.

MyPa – FC Inter

MyPa still have a chance of finishing fourth while Inter have an advantage over Honka in the title race.
Tuomas Kuparinen is out for MyPa while Ats Purje, Ville Nikkari, Kito, Felix Åkerlund, Henri Lehtonen, Joni Kauko and Ville Mäkilä are out for Inter. The list looks lengthy, but they have played fairly well without Purje, Nikkari and Kito and Henri Lehtonen, despite being the team captain, can be replaced as he has been fairly average during the season.
I’ve got to go for an away win here. MyPa won’t lose this game easily, but Inter will know that after Honka’s defeat yesterday, a win today will make them champions.

FF Jaro – KuPS

The hosts are safe and have nothing to play for, but are motivated as 2008 has been Jaro’s best season in a long time. KuPS, on the other hand, are threatened by relegation and need a win to have a chance of avoiding the relegation play-offs.
Jonas Portin, Jonas Emet, Vesa Heikinheimo and Jermu Gustaffson are missing from the hosts. KuPS’ Joonas Pöntinen and Petteri Pennanen are away with the U-19 team and Jarno Kauhanen and Echiabhi Okodugha are injured.
Given Jaro’s good season (by their standards), I can’t really see the visitors taking a win. A draw is by all means possible and Jaro could snatch the three points too.

RoPS – VPS

Both teams are safe from relegation. RoPS will probably field some of their own youngsters and that is a welcome move. Janne Turpeenniemi is suspended and Nchimunya Mweetwa and Chileshe Chibwe are out due to injuries. VPS are missing Ville Koskimaa, Jussi Ekström and the suspended Maciej Truszczynski.
It might be a display of nice, creative football or then a crop of uninterested players trying to get it out of the way. The win could go either way and a draw is possible too.

TPS – FC KooTeePee

Perhaps the most uninteresting game of the round. TPS have had a tough, disappointing season and KooTeePee ensured a couple of weeks ago that they are going down to Ykkönen (although I am tempted to say that the relegation was already a foregone conclusion in April).
Kiko is suspended for TPS and Ville Lehtonen, Mika Ääritalo, Jani Sarajärvi and Simo Valakari are missing due to injuries. KooTeePee are missing Niko Ikävalko, Obinna Okafor and Tommi Vartiainen. Tuomo Turunen and Henri Järviniemi are doubtful.
Basically, the question is how big a margin will TPS win by. Maybe Mikko Paatelainen has an answer as he has a chance of being the league’s top scorer this year?
If KooTeePee get anything out of this game, I can only call it ridiculous. A definite home win.

FC Haka – HJK

One of the classics in Finnish football.
Haka will not bring home silverware or European spots this year, HJK are still fighting for bronze medals. Haka are in the Suomen Cup semi finals and the Cup is all they are aiming for.
The hosts are missing Kalle Parviainen and Sebastian Strandvall. HJK are healthy, with the possible exception of Petri Oravainen.
Haka have lost four home games in a row and will want to turn it around in their last home fixture of the season. HJK, however, have more to play for and are favourites.

Inter hold on to their advantage

FC Inter – Honka 0-0
HJK – TPS 1-0
FC Lahti – Haka 1-0
KuPS – MyPa 1-4
VPS – Jaro 2-1
TamU – IFK Mariehamn 1-0

Highlights here, just click the “Veikkausliiga” link below the video.

Inter and Honka couldn’t spell out a difference between themselves in the long-awaited game between the two top teams in Turku. Not the best of football games, but the weather made the game difficult for both sides. It was raining before the game even started and the cats and dogs kept coming down all night long. The football was as good as it gets in circumstances like that.

Both teams have nothced up 50 points, but Inter have a seven-goal advantage in goal difference and it is highly probable that wins against MyPa and Jaro would earn them the title. It is too early to put the champagne in the freezer, however, since dropping points might mean dropping the title.
Honka have games left against TamU at home and IFK Mariehamn away, and their job will be difficult too. Both teams are likely to give all they have got anyway, because it is almost certain that Inter and Honka will occupy the two top spots.

HJK and Lahti are in good positions as far as the European spots are concerned. Paulus Roiha’s great strike earned HJK a 1-0 victory against TPS while Lahti marked a home win win against Haka. HJK and Lahti have yet to play each other in the last round of games and the big stakes will add an interesting twist both on and off the pitch.

VPS beat Jaro 2-1 in the Ostrobothnian derby, thanks to a late game winner by Antonio Inutile. Both teams can now relax as they will most likely stay up for next season. That is some kind of an improvement, because at least one of the teams has usually been firmly rooted in the relegation battle at this stage of the campaign.

KuPS succumbed to a 4-1 loss against MyPa, who paid them a visit. KuPS are now four points away from safety, but TamU did them a favour by winning IFK Mariehamn 1-0. To Egan’s delight, the only goal of the game was scored by Henri Myntti.

RoPS will play KooTeePee tonight, and if they deliver the expected win, they are safe from relegation play-offs.

The stormy weather on Sunday inspired a couple of articles about the end of the season. Jari Welling of Turun Sanomat hoped that there will be “no more than a metre of snow” on the 26th, when the final round of games will be played. Helsingin Sanomat’s Tommi Hannula also thought that the season ends too late.
In my opinion, the Finns’ obsession with weather borders on the absurd. I’m sorry, Welling and Hannula, but if we want to see development in Finnish football, the season cannot start in late May and end in early September. Besides, the autumn games are usually quite atmospheric. Yesterday’s weather was an exception. Put some clothes on and stop whining.

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

Yle vs. Urheilukanava

Yle started their Veikkausliiga broadcasts today as FF Jaro played FC Lahti. The system in Finland is quite interesting: Urheilukanava broadcast the games from April to September, and Yle are only interested when the title is about to be won. The move from Urheilukanava to Yle may raise the number of people watching, as Urheilukanava is a channel directed at sports people and the popular Yle channels have something for everyone – except football fans.

I was prepared for my daily dose of football well in advance, and out of an old habit I turned on the TV half an hour before the game to watch the pre-game analysis – but instead, I had to watch men with bags full of testosterone tune a Ford Ranchero.When the broadcast started, only 10 minutes prior to kick-off, I only saw a widely unknown guy from Yle standing next to Juha Malinen, who had nothing interesting to say during the lucrative five minutes dedicated to the pre-match analysis.

After the game, the same team made a desperate attempt to discuss the game in a quarter of an hour, including post-match interviews. The ratings aside, difference between Yle and Urheilukanava was huge, to the advantage of the latter. If Yle really wants to broadcast the games, why not do it properly? In Urheilukanava, two highly enthusiastic football lovers dedicate 25 minutes to predicting the game before Finland’s best commentator, Tuomas Virkkunen, takes over.

And the same formula is used for every game, be it a largely uninteresting encounter between two mid-table teams or a highly anticipated clash between two top teams. Yle then interferes and ruins the whole thing for the most interesting games of the season. In addition to not doing things properly, they also force changes in the schedules. The televised game always starts at 4 PM, while other fixtures are kicked off at 7:30 as usual.

Anyway, KuPS suffered an expected 4-0 loss at Inter on Friday and they weren’t much helped on Sunday by TPS, whose new, more spirited style of play under John Allen meant a 2-1 loss to the struggling IFK Mariehamn. To cancel out Inter’s win, Honka took an expected win over KooTeePee and HJK took the win they needed at MyPa, the score being 3-1. FC Lahti had to settle with a 2-2 draw at Jaro and VPS got a point at TamU with each team scoring once.

There’s three points separating FC Honka from table-topping Inter, and if neither of the teams stumble, their clash in Turku on 5th October will be of a decisive nature as far as the title is concerned. HJK are five points away from the top and will have to use the backdoor if they want to join the title race. Other teams are ruled out unless miracles happen.

Veikkausliiga Round 18 preview, part 1

FC Lahti and TamU kicked off the 18th round on Friday and the matched ended in a 2-2 draw. Dramatically, TamU were up by one until the 90th minute. Then Jari Litmanen scored in stoppage time and two minutes later Jonne Kemppinen gave the hosts the lead. Nobody expected TamU to get a result anymore, but Toni Järvinen scored on the 11th hour to settle the final score.

Saturday 23rd, 17:00 FC Haka – FC Honka

This is a sixpointer. Honka are third in the league and Haka are sixth, trailing their opponents by three points.
Their encounter in the spring ended in Honka’s 7-0 victory, but a similar result is an unlikely event. Haka have some new players, and off-pitch issues that caused speculation around the last Honka game are now a thing of the past.
Haka are missing Pietari Holopainen, Mikko Innanen and Sebastian Strandvall. Honka’s Tuomo Turunen will return from suspension.
The game is difficult to call, but having an unbeaten record of eight unbeaten games, I would pick Honka to for the favourites – despite the fact that they have never got an away win at Haka.

Sunday 24th, 18:30

TPS – MyPa

MyPa are trying hard to reach the European spots, and TPS are targeting similar positions in the table.
TPS have Jani Sarajärvi, Janne Vellamo, Simo Valakari and Jarno Heinikangas missing, but will still field a good squad. Their most interesting player is their new Danish striker Simon Azoulay Pedersen. MyPa, on the other hand, are missing Tuomas Kuparinen and Juho Nykänen.
TPS are a very unpredictable team. One night they play really well and give their opponents no chance, another night they look like they have never even seen a football. Sometimes they play really well, but end up losing anyway. This could really be a win for either side and a draw is by all means possible too.
The season’s first game between these teams ended in MyPa’s 1-0 home win.

RoPS – FF Jaro

Rovaniemi is a tough place for any team to go. On the other hand, RoPS have not won nor scored in their last four games. Jaro got a surprise win against MyPa two weeks ago and have not played since, because their last Sunday’s game at IFK Mariehamn was cancelled.
RoPS are fairly healthy, their only notable absentee is Mika Nurmela, who is suspended after collecting too many yellow cards.
Jaro are quite the opposite. Vesa Heikinheimo, Kristian Kojola, Jens Portin and Toni Junnila are all out, Jari Sara is doubtful. They have reinforced their squad with defenders Jordan Simpson and Jermu Gustafsson (on loan from Inter) and midfielder Joonas Laurikainen (on loan from KaaPo).
Both teams are looking to stay clear of relegation and occupy a mid-table position, so this game is important for both sides. Maybe we will see another draw, like in the spring?

VPS – IFK Mariehamn

Another important game, especially for the visitors, whose recent form has seen them go down to sharing the relegation play-off spot with KuPS.
IFK Mariehamn have had problems with their goalkeepers, but with their new acquisition, Dan Alexandru Chisom, things look better. Arash Bayat will also make a debut for the islanders.
VPS are missing Tony Björk. Other than that, VPS coach Tomi Kärkkäinen has said they can field a good squad.
VPS have had problems with scoring and even creating chances in their recent fixtures. IFK Mariehamn, for their part, have not won for a long time, so both teams have a chance of regaining some of their lost confidence.

Inter sail on under lucky stars

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

Inter have signed a great deal with the football gods. They won FC Lahti in front of over 8000 people willing to see Jari Litmanen in action, the difference between the sides being Mika Ojala’s beautiful – and somewhat lucky – freekick. Besides winning, almost everything else went just like they wanted: FC Haka failed to win at Tampere United, FC Honka were able to limit TPS to a draw, and most notably, HJK gave away three points during the second half after they had gone up by two at KuPS. Inter are now topping the league by a margin of five points. Their next game away at HJK might be decisive as far as the title is concerned and interestingly, HJK are the only team who have managed to beat Inter. That was the game that dropped Inter out of the cup.

KooTeePee are improving. They are now unbeaten in two games. That does not sound like a lot, but KooTeePee are one of the crappiest teams in the history of Finnish football.

The pitch at Maarianhamina’s Wiklöf Holding Arena was soaked, so there was no game. It has been raining in the island since Saturday and they teams together with the referee decided to call it a day 1,5 hours before the match was scheduled to start. Rumours are saying that Jaro would have wanted to play the game on Monday. I understand that, since that would probably spare them another trip to the island, but I’m glad IFK did not agree to do so. This is a professional league, and games should not be scheduled with a notice that would most conveniently be counted in hours rather than days.