This year’s Veikkausliiga season drew to a close today with a final round of six matches. The main point of interest was which two teams of Inter Turku, JJK and Honka would make it into the Europa League qualifiers by finishing second and third. Here’s how that story unfolded over the course of the afternoon (times are approximate).
Kick off in Mariehamn vs Honka and Inter Turku vs JJK, as well as the other four matches being played around the country, HJK vs Haka, Jaro vs MyPa, VPS vs RoPS and KuPS vs TPS.
The first goal of the afternoon is scored by Babatunde Wusu for JJK, provisionally moving them up to second place and leaving Inter Turku in fourth.
The league’s top scorer, Timo Furuholm, equalises for Inter against JJK. His contract is on the verge of expiry and today was quite probably his last match for Inter, the club he’s been with for six years. They go provisionally second and JJK go third. Meanwhile, veteran midfielder Aki Riihilahti has opened the scoring for HJK against Haka.
Inter take the lead through their captain, Henri Lehtonen. The score is now 2-1, but the provisional rankings don’t change as Honka are still drawing against Mariehamn. Elsewhere, there’s been a flurry of goals in Jaro’s match against MyPa, four in eight minutes to make it 2-2.
Half-time whistles begin to be blown up and down Finland. Inter lead JJK 2-1, while Mariehamn and Honka are still goalless. The other scores are HJK 2-0 Haka, Jaro 2-2 MyPa, VPS 1-0 RoPS and KuPS 1-0 TPS.
There are 45 minutes until the end of the season as the second halves get underway. Honka know a win will get them onto the figurative podium and into European competition.
34-year-old defender Anssi Viren is substituted by JJK as they try to get something from their match against Inter, and is replaced by midfielder Patrick Poutiainen. That was Viren’s last appearance for them after three years at the club. JJK have now made all three of their allowed substitutions.
Tapio Heikkilä scores for Honka to give them a 0-1 lead over Mariehamn and move them into provisional third place, with JJK falling to fourth. Honka just need to defend that scoreline to give them third place, while JJK suddenly need to beat Inter to finish in the top three. In Helsinki, Jari Litmanen is taken off by HJK to a warm reception, with speculation continuing to swirl about his retirement from the game.
The end of normal time in the afternoon’s matches. Despite JJK’s best efforts, they still trail Inter by a two goals to one, which would leave them in fourth place. But then… drama! Approximately 135 kilometres away, IFK Mariehamn snatch a last-gasp equaliser through Hendrik Helmke. It is the German midfielder’s first and only goal for the season, in his 28th appearance. What a time to get it – as well as lifting his own side from eighth to seventh in the table, it means Honka drop to fourth in the table with JJK moving back up to the bronze medal position.
As the full-time whistles are blown, there is misery for Honka but a double celebration in Turku, where home side Inter have secured second place and visitors JJK fortuitously finish third, their best ever result. It marks the culmination of an astonishing season for them; in 2010 and 2009, their first season in the Veikkausliiga, they finished 13th and had to come through a relegation play-off to stay in the division. They can now look forward to a European adventure next year.
- Mariehamn 1-1 Honka
- HJK 5-2 Haka
- Jaro 2-4 MyPa
- VPS 2-1 RoPS
- KuPS 2-0 TPS
- Inter 2-1 JJK
- Veikkausliiga champions, Champions League second qualifying round: HJK
- Runners-up, Europa League second qualifying round: Inter Turku
- Third place, Europa League first qualifying round: JJK
- Relegated to Ykkönen: RoPS
KuPS will also play in the Europa League first qualifying round thanks to reaching the Finnish Cup final, which was won by HJK, whose entry to the Champions League takes priority.
The final table can be seen on the Veikkausliiga website.