Malmö LdB returned to the top of Swedish women's football, winning the Damallsvenskan crown with three rounds left to play.
by Chipp Reid
Malmö LdB returned to the winner’s circle in Swedish women’s football, taking home the 2010 title thanks to a 1-1 draw Sept. 18 with Kopparbergs/Göteborg
Malmö won the crown, its first since 1995, with three matches left to play in the season. Malmö holds a 10-point lead over K/G, so even if Malmö were to lose its final three matches, Göteborg still couldn’t overtake the Skåne team.
“Unbelievable. I am so happy,” said Malmö captain and Swedish international Therese Sjögran. “I’ve been waiting 10 years to win the championship, so this feels really good.”
Sjögran is one of a handful of Malmö players who have been with the club since its glory days a decade ago when Malmö was still part of the men’s club, Malmö FF, and the southern Swedish team, along with Umeå IK, was a dominant force in the women’s game.
Malmö fell on slightly hard times as the club went through a financial downturn, with the board pouring assets into the men’s team while ignoring somewhat the women’s side. Two years ago, the women’s team broke away from the club, becoming Malmö LdB and the team quickly climbed back toward the top of the Damallsvenskan.
For Sjögran, who did not play in the title-clinching game due to a hamstring injury the title is her swan song in women’s football.
“I will never do this again,” she said. “I was so nervous I couldn’t sit still. I am so proud of my teammates.”
Malmö raced through the season unbeaten, winning 17 of its first 19 matches, drawing the other two.
“We deserved to win,” said Malmö head coach Martin Sjögren. “We worked hard in rebuilding our team. We have developed our offensive game. We wanted to have more players involved in our offense and we accomplished that. In addition we have developed a solid defense. We have a good goalkeeper, good central defenders.”
Malmö emerged as the strongest team early in the season, thanks in part to veteran players such as Sjögran and leading scorer Manon Melis, and also thanks in part to uncertainty among traditionally strong sides such as Linkoping, Djurgården and Umeå.
Those three teams, which have won every title since Malmö last took the crown in 1994, lost key players either to retirement or to foreign leagues and never seemed able to make up lost ground. UIK took an especially hard hit this season as financial problems forced the 8-time champions to slash their payroll.
A week after clinching the title, Malmö beat AIK 3-0 on Sept. 27, virtually assuring the Solna side would suffer relegation. Despite clinching the title, Malmö still has a goal for which to play. The Skåne side is vying to be just the fourth team in league history to finish the season without a loss. Malmö actually went without a loss in 2001 when it finished second to Umeå. UIK, however, won every match it played while Malmö had a pair of draws.
Göteborg is set to finish in second place, its highest-ever position in the table. Linköping, the 2009 champions, sits in third place, with 34 points, 22 behind Malmö and 12 behind Göteborg. Tyresö, long a whipping boy of the league, sits in fourth place on 34 points while another long-time relegation candidate, Jitex, is fifth with 33 points.
“I think it’s been a great league this year,” Sjögran said. “We were the best team but I think all the teams were much closer (in strength) this year than in the past. It’s a lot more fun when you have tougher matches every week.”
The victory sends Malmö into the UEFA Women’s Champions League along with Göteborg. Linköping, Jitex and Tyresö continue to battle for the final two European spots.
Sara Storck, left, and Manon Melis celebrate after Malmö won the 2010 Damallsvenskan title. Bildbyrån photo