Swedish soccer could be in for a wild ride this fall as race for the Lennart Johansson Trophy continues neck-and-neck among four teams.
By Chipp Reid
AIK continues to hold serve as the league leaders. AIK knocked off relegation-bound Örgryte 3-0 at Råsunda Stadium Sept. 21 as it continued to lead IFK Göteborg by one point, 47-46. Göteborg also claimed a win in Round 23, knocking off Halmstad 2-0 at home on Sept. 20.
The victories gave the front-runners a measure of breathing room over third-place Kalmar, 41 points, and fourth-place Elfsborg, 40 points. Both teams lost in Round 23, Kalmar falling at home 3-1 to surprising Örebro while Malmö blasted Elfsborg 5-0 at Swedbank Arena.
Helsingborg, which led the league July, fell completely out of the running after losing 2-1 to Halmstad. The one-time league leaders are now in seventh place, 11 points behind AIK.
The Gnaget have confounded the Allsvenskan with a defense that has surrendered just 14 goals in 23 games and an offense that has managed to score just 26 goals. Second-place Göteborg has 43 goals in 23 games while defending champions Kalmar have 41. AIK defender Markus Jonsson said the lack of goals doesn’t worry the league leaders.
“Our defense is what gets us going,” Jonsson said. “We have some very talented forwards and when we play well on defense, we take the pressure off them.”
The AIK defensive unit – Jonsson, Joos Hooiveld, Per Karlsson and team captain Nils-Eric Johansson – has avoided injury most of the season, giving the Gnaget a consistent team week in and week out.
“Our back four has been together all year which is good for the team,” Jonsson said. “We know each other and how to play together and that’s why our defense is so good.”
Still, AIK knows it needs to find a little more firepower and it might finally have some good news on the offense front. Ivan Obolo, who led the team in scoring last year with 10 goals, is back on his scoring pace. The Uruguyan struck for his ninth goal of the season against Örgryte and now has four goals in AIK’s last six matches.
Martin Kayongo-Mutumba opened the scoring against Orgryte when he tallied in the 44th minute. Jonsson made it 2-0 with a penalty 12 minutes into the second half while Obolo scored two minutes from time.
The victory against the bottom team was exactly the result Jonsson said the team expected, which made the game somewhat tougher.
“We know they are in last place and are probably going down next year,” he said. “These are tough games because they have nothing to lose so they play very loose. It’s important that we win these because it’s too easy to take it easy against the lower teams and to lose points.”
The win Sept. 21, Jonsson said, is also a confidence booster as AIK begins to cast eyes toward November and the Lennart Johansson trophy.
“It feels like it could be our year,” he said. “Everything is going good right now.”