The season wasn’t supposed to start this way, at least not for IFK Göteborg.
The Allsvenskan favorites opened the 2012 campaign in Södertälje April 1 against Syrianska and must have thought someone played a poor April Fool’s joke after suffering a 2-1 Opening Day loss.
For 45 minutes, the Angels lived up to their billing of “Real Göteborg,” putting on a show of possessive, offense-minded football. However, all of the effort only resulted in one goal, a Daniel Sobralense strike in the 17th minute. The missed chances came back to haunt Göteborg in the second half as Syrianska, playing a mostly defensive, counter-attack style, used a pair of mistakes to score twice and send Göteborg home with a loss.
“I think maybe we got a little complacent in the second half, lost some of our focus,” said IFK goalkeeper John Alvbåge, who was one of nine new players to suit up for Göteborg in the game. “We lowered our level three or four percent and they raised theirs three or four percent and when that happens, we’re beatable.”
Göteborg is looking to rebound from a 2011 season in which it finished a distant seventh in the standings. IFK rebuilt its team, collecting arguably some of the best available Swedish and international talent available. In the first half, the collection of stars looked exactly like the type of championship new IFK head coach Michael Stahre expected of his team.
Göteborg quickly took control of the match and after just 17 minutes had a 1-0 lead. Defender Emil Salmonsson cut around Syrianska back Gabriel Somi and sent a cross into the penalty area. Sobralense, who spent three years with Kalmar before moving to IFK over the winter, outjumped Syrianska centerbacks Rabi Elia and Haris Skenderovic to head the ball past Jamaican national team goalkeeper Dwayne St. Miller for a 1-0 lead.
Despite the quick goal and continued dominance, IFK could not find a second goal, a fact Alvbåge said bothered the team.
“We had a lot of chances and if we’re going to win, we have to score when we have them,” he said. “Daniel scored a quality goal, but it was only one goal. We should have had two or three goals. If we scored on our chances, it would have been a different game.”
After the break, Syrianska redoubled its defensive efforts, using Louay Chanko and Johan Arneng as advanced central defenders, in effect keeping six men back on defense. The Södertälje side was content to rely on long-ball counterattacks against IFK and looked to capitalize on mistake and was happy when Göteborg complied.
Sharbel Touma tied the game seven minutes into the second half when he found himself alone in front of an open goal. Touma got the ball after it caromed around the penalty area, finally landing at his feet after it rebounded to him off a Göteborg player.
“I tried to rush out of the net, but he was two meters away and there was really nothing I could do,” Alvbåge said. “They got a little lucky on that one.”
Syrianska took the lead just two minutes later when Lawal Adebowale Ismail raced down the left side of the field, rounded Erik Lund and laid the ball off in the path of Admir Aganovic, who took a couple of steps and fired the ball past Alvbåge.
“We got a little bit desperate after that,” Alvbåge said. “We started to play the way they wanted by just sending in long balls and we couldn’t get past their big defenders.”
The loss against a team many experts say should battle to avoid relegation came as shock to everyone at IFK.

Everything went wrong
“Everything that could go wrong went wrong. It was a fiasco,” Alvbåge said. “I can remember last year when I was with Orebro we beat Göteborg in our opener and a lot of people made a big thing out of it, but not like this. Everyone says Syrianska will get relegated this year, that their team isn’t very good. For them, a win against us is huge. For us, to lose to them is just a fiasco.”
The IFK goalkeeper said he believes the Syrianska match could well be an indicator of how many teams will play Göteborg. Few teams have the ability to match Göteborg in the midfield or can move the ball with the ease of IFK, which could force opponents to drop back to pack their defensive thirds while simply looking to counterpunch
“I think it’s going to be this way because we are the favorites, We’re supposed to win the gold,” Alvbåge said. “All we can do now is analyze what we did wrong, then put that game out of our minds and get ready for our next match.”
Göteborg plays IFK Norrköping – 1-0 winners over Helsingborg in its opener – April 9 at Gamla Ullevi in the Angels’ home opener. Alvbåge said he’s glad he’s playing for the home team, not the visitors.
“I wouldn’t want to be IFK Norrkoping on Monday,” he said. “We’re going to be really, really hungry for a win and play really aggressive. We’re going to be in front of our fans at Gamla Ullevi, so I wouldn’t want to be on Norrkoping when we play them.”


by Chipp Reid