A look back at what’s been making the headlines in Finnish football over the course of the past week or so.
TPS take spot-kick victory in Liigacup final
2011 double winners HJK couldn’t add to their trophy collection as they were beaten on penalty kicks by TPS in last week’s Liigacup final. TPS took the lead in the last few minutes of the first half through Juho Lähde before HJK, playing in their home stadium, levelled things up just after the break with a Joel Pohjanpalo goal. Despite dictating the play for most of the game, the Helsinki-based club couldn’t find a winner, so the match finished 1-1 and went to a shoot-out. Erfan Zeneli missed the first penalty for HJK, after which Petteri Pennanen scored for TPS. When HJK’s earlier goalscorer Pohjanpalo missed with their second attempt, the cup looked to be heading to Turku. They converted all their spot kicks to take a 4-3 victory.
Match report (in Finnish): Veikkausliiga
Finnish participation in Europe ends as AZ crash out
AZ Alkmaar were the only side left in European competition with Finnish players in their squad up until last Thursday, when they were knocked out by Valencia. A somewhat fortunate 2-1 home victory in the home leg had given them hope of progressing to the semi-finals, but a convincing 4-0 win for the Spanish side in the return fixture sent them crashing out of the competition. Niklas Moisander and his defence could not prevent the French defender Adil Rami from scoring two goals from two corners in the same number of minutes, firstly with a header and then a volley. Jordi Alba and Pablo Hernández finished the job off the Valencia in the second half.
A quarter-final elimination is nothing to be ashamed of for a club like AZ, but they must be disappointed with the manner in which they exited the competition. One unused substitute in their match against Valencia was centre back Thomas Lam, a Dutch and Finnish national who has represented Finland at the under-19 level. He could be a player to watch in the future.
Respect day to provide farewell for Finland legends
The Finnish Football Association have announced a pair of exhibition matches to be played on the 8th of September. Going under the title of “Respect”, the first will be between “Veikkausliiga Legends” and “Football Association Gladiators”, while the second match, the main event, will see a Finland team made up of core national team players from the early 2000s, including Sami Hyypiä and Jari Litmanen, take on an invitational World XI. Finland will be led by Roy Hodgson, who was in charge of the national team with some success between 2006 and 2007, while Richard Møller Nielsen, Finland’s head coach between 1996 and 1999, will be responsible for managing their opponents. The team compositions will be announced in May.
The day will serve two purposes: firstly, it will serve as a testimonial match for Finland’s Silver Generation, who came very close to qualifying for a major tournament on a couple of occasions, and secondly, it will raise money for charity. Which charity the money will go to has yet to be decided. I’ll bring you more news about that, as well as the teams and the day itself, when it is made available.
Press release (in Finnish): Suomen Palloliitto