The quarter- and semi-finals of Finland’s pre-season knock-out tournament, the Liigacup, took place over the last week and a half while I was busy writing exams. Here’s what happened.
Cup holders Honka were knocked out in the quarter-finals by VPS on the 21st of March thanks a goal from Cheyne Fowler, the only one of the match. The South African Fowler joined VPS this off-season from HJK, who overcame KuPS on the same day in a rematch of last year’s Suomen Cup final. The scoreline there finished 2-1, with HJK’s goals coming from Antti Okkonen and Berat Sadik, who scored with an overhead kick. Miikka Ilo replied for KuPS to give them hope of a comeback, but it didn’t materialise.
Elsewhere, Inter beat Jaro in an exciting match which finished 2-3. Jussi Aalto opened the scoring for the home side Jaro, whose pressing game allowed them to control the opening stages. They made a number of chances but were soon punished for not taking more of them when Inter levelled the match up through Henri Lehtonen. In the second half, Inter opened up a 1-3 lead with goals from Severi Paajanen and Irakli Sirbiladze before Simon Skrabb got one back for Jaro. An exciting finish was assured when Inter had Joni Kauko sent off with a little over twenty minutes to play, but they held on the victory and a place in the semi-finals.
Rounding off the quarter-finals was TPS against MyPa, played on Friday the 23rd of March. Unlike the other three matches, it wasn’t at all a close encounter, as TPS thrashed their visitors 4-0. Aleksi Ristola opened the scoring after just five minutes, the culmination of an excellent move from TPS. Petteri Pennanen scored in the 39th minute, and their second-half goals came from a pair of Finland internationals, Mika Ääritalo and Mikko Hyyrynen.
The first semi-final took place on Wednesday, when TPS took on VPS. Ääritalo continued his good form, scoring two goals in the second half to give the team from Turku a 2-0 victory. Their opponents in the final will be HJK, whose match with Inter went all the way to penalties after finishing 2-2 in 90 minutes. After a goalless first half, Inter took the lead through their Dutch player Pim Bouwman. HJK then scored two in quick succession through Joel Perovuo and Akseli Pelvas before Inter drew level again with a goal, scored by Sirbiladze, that HJK Ville Wallen won’t want to see too many replays of. He appeared to have caught the fairly weak shot with both hands before letting the ball slip through and into the net. There is no extra time in the Liigacup so the match went straight to penalties at the final whistle. HJK held their nerve to win 6-5 in the shoot-out.
So the final will be TPS against HJK. Personally, I would have rather seen a Turku derby than another “home” match for HJK which they will be expected to win, but it should still be an exciting match with TPS in excellent form. The final kicks off at 18:30 on Wednesday the 4th of April at the Sonera Stadium in Helsinki. Tickets can be purchased here.