A packed house watched as an 18-year-old rookie handed Malmö a 2-0 win over Helsingborg in the battle for first place in the Allsvenskan. "This is exactly the kind of game you want to play," said the 'New Zlatan' after the game.
by Chipp Reid
That’s why they play the game.
Despite missing three starters, Malmö FF had enough to knock off Helsingborg 2-0 Sept. 15 at Swedbank Arena and move into sole possession of first place in the 2010 Allsvenskan.
Malmö started the game without regular strike partners Daniel Larsson and Agon Mehmeti and defender Ulrich Vinzents and lost central defender Yago Fernandez just 39 minutes into the match. None of that mattered, however, as 18-year-old Dardan Rexhepi announced his arrival to the main stage by scoring once and picking up an assist.
“It's the biggest thing that happened in my football career. It will be hard to match this,” Rexhepi said. “Now you just have to hope that we continue on the same level, then it looks good.”
Rexhepi, making his first-ever Allsvenskan start, scored the opening goal of the match at the 17-minute mark. Jiloan Hamad pushed a pass into the Helsingborg penalty that Rexhepi grabbed and fired a low shot past the outstretched hands of Pär Hansson for a 1-0 Malmö lead.
The goal came to the delight of the sellout crowd of 24,000 that packed Swedbank Arena for the derby match between the two Skåne rivals and the top two teams in the Allsvenskan.
"..exactly the kind of game you want to play.”
Malmö and Helsingborg entered the game level on points at the top of the standings and at first Helsingborg looked like the side that would emerge with three points.
HIF strikers Rasmus Jönsson and Alexander Gerndt each fired wide of the net in the opening minutes, with Gerndt blasting a shot over the cross bar from just six yards out. Malmö slowly began to take the initiative, with team captain Daniel Andersson firing just wide two minutes before Rexhepi found the net.
The big teen, whom his teammates call the “New Zlatan” in deference to his similarity in size and strength to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, sent the crowd into delirium with his first career goal.
“It was just amazing,” Rexhepi said. “It was absolutely wonderful. This is exactly the kind of game you want to play.”
The game lived up to its billing of being a “super derby” as the two teams battled back and forth. Hansson and Malmö goalkeeper Johan Dahlin both made huge saves to keep the score at 1-0. Dahlin stopped a near point-blank shot from Christoffer Andersson in the 23rd minute while Hansson stood on his head to keep a Guillermo Molins shot from finding the net at the half-hour mark.
The battle continued throughout the second half as Helsingborg threw more and more into attack to find an equalizer. Jönsson, Gerndt and Erik Edman all put shots on goal but once more Dahlin was equal to the task. Finally, in injury time, Malmö found a hole and Rexhepi sprang Wilton Figueiredo for the second goal.
“It feels good but I think we have more to give,” Rexhepi said. “There is still a long struggle ahead of us.”
Despite the loss, Helsingborg manager Conny Karlsson said he thought the match lived up to its hype.
“It was a great atmosphere and an intense football match,” Karlsson said. “We were unhappy with the fact we couldn’t finish our attacks but it was still a well-played game.”