By Chipp Reid
Daniel Tjernström, the longest-serving member of the squad, scored the game-winning goal five minutes from time as AIK not only handed Göteborg its first home loss of the season but hoisted the Lennart Johansson trophy in front of a hostile crowd.
The crowd only grew more belligerent when AIK striker Antonio Flavio sought a measure of revenge for insults IFK fans heaped on him by running along the edge of the field with his middle finger extended.
As Göteborg fans tried to break through a cordon of police and security officers, AIK fans stormed the field from the opposite side of the stadium, celebrating wildly on the grass as the players tried to flee for safety.
Police arrested 15 AIK fans at Gamla Ullevi stadium. Police in Stockholm arrested another 60 AIK fans as thousands watched the match at Råsunda Stadium on the huge DiamondVision screen.
The nasty aftermath, however, failed to put much of a damper on what was a raucous celebration for AIK. The team took over first place in August and doggedly held onto the top spot. AIK entered the match with a 1-point lead over IFK and needed only a draw to claim its first title since 1998. It was the first time since 1956 that the two top teams in the league met on the final day of the season to decide the champion.
“We haven’t had a single dip all season,” said goalkeeper Daniel Örlund. “This is just incredible and it feels like we still haven’t reached our maximum potential. We can be even better.”
IFK went into the match knowing it had to be at its best to claim its second title in three years. Everything seemed to point toward Göteborg, which was all but unstoppable at home. The Angels were 11-3-0 at Gamla Ullevi and had outscored opponents 38-9 in those matches.
“The best away team managed to win against the best home team,” said AIK captain Nils-Erik Johansson. ”All week we said they would finish No. 2 – twice. It feels like we are worthy champions.”
The match didn’t start in AIK’s favor. Göteborg threatened to run the Solna, Stockholm side out of the park, at least in the first half. IFK held the ball for more than 30 of the opening 45 minutes but could never quite find the final scoring touch. It wasn’t until the 32nd minute that Thomas Olsson put IFK on top when he scored off a corner. The goal set off wild celebrations in the crowd but did little to unsettle Örlund.
“I was never really worried,” he said. “I felt that we were so much better in the second half.”
AIK tied the game just ten minutes into the second half when Flavio turned on a pass from Martin Matumba and fired the ball past Kim Christensen. For both players, the goal was sweet revenge as Flavio endured a hail of insults from the IFK crowd while Matumba earned a reprieve from an early exit.
AIK head coach Michael Stahre was ready to yank Matumba when the Ugandan laid the ball off neatly for Flavio.
“He was only seconds away from being replaced, but.he wins the ball and hit the post and then turns the match for him,” Stahre said.
Although AIK only needed a draw, the team called Gnaget by its fans, pushed forward, exploiting holes in the IFK defense, which had to win to claim the crown. Although its defense bent, it never broke and five minutes from time, Tjernström, who joined AIK back in 1999, sealed the gold medal with his first goal in three years for the Gnaget.
“I have dreamed about things like this,” Tjernström said. “This is everything I have fought for for so long. I got a perfect pass from Dulee (Johnson) although I wasn’t sure it would go in because I had a tough angle.”
His teammates were just as happy.
“If anyone deserves this, it’s Tjern,” said defender Bojan Djordic. “He will finally get his name engraved on the gold plaque at Karlberg.”
Karlberg is the AIK practice ground in Huvudsta, Solna in Stockholm. In the club house is a plaque with the name of each player from a championship side engraved on it.”
As time expired, the crowd became more and more animated. IFK Captain Stefan Selakovic accused Flavio of inciting the AIK fans to storm the pitch with his post-game antics.
“We all saw what he was doing,” Selakovic said. “He was making gestures, one to our fans and another to their fans. I don’t think it’s a surprise that problems happened.”
Whatever the reason, fans of both teams tried to rush the pitch. The Göteborg fans were unsuccessful while the AIK fans broke through a phalanx of security just as the Gnaget players were receiving their individual gold medals.
A horde of spectators made a bee-line toward AIK captain Johansson, eyeing a prize.
“I was body checked by several fans who ran into me just after the final whistle,” he said “They were trying to steal the captain's armband from me but it was not theirs! I wanted to give it to Tjern after the match. It’s his.”
Svenska Fotbollförbundet President Lars-Åke Lagrell ordered an investigation into the melee and promised to mete out tough punishment to anyone found guilty of inciting the trouble.
“This is not how a championship game should end,” Lagrell said. “The players from Göteborg could not even receive their medals in front of their own fans.”
Göteborg has a chance for measure of its own revenge Nov. 7 when it faces AIK Nov. 7 in the final of the Swedish Cup at Råsunda Stadium.