League-leading Kalmar continued its drive for a first-ever Allsvenskan title, knocking off Hammarby 2-1 Sept. 14 at Söderstadion in Stockholm.
Kalmar maintained a four-point lead over Elfsborg. Kalmar has 51 points, Elfsborg 47. The 2006 champions are the only team left in the league with a realistic chance of catching Kalmar. The two teams meet Sept. 28 in Kalmar.
“That is going to be a big game, a really big game,” said Elfsborg goalkeeper Johan Wiland. “I think it will decide the championship. If we beat them, then we have a chance to take the gold. If we lose, I think it will pretty much be over.”
Against Hammarby, Kalmar grabbed a 2-0 lead but didn’t look like the dominant team in Sweden. Brazilian midfielder Daniel Sobralense opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Stefan Larson, who replaced the Brazilian early in the second half, notched the second goal in the 72nd minute. U.S. international Charlie Davies grabbed an injury-time goal for Hammarby.
Despite the win, Kalmar head coach Nanne Bergstrand wasn’t particularly pleased with how his team played.
“We were not a top team but we played well enough to take three points,” Bergstrand said. “Of course, we need to play better down the stretch. We have a very tough schedule in our last eight games and we know we must play better if we are going to win the rest of matches.”
In addition to Elfsborg, Kalmar has matches remaining against IFK Göteborg, Djurgården, and Helsingborg in addition to Trelleborg, Gefle, and Norrköping.
Elfsborg kept pace with Kalmar, shutting down Malmö 4-0 at Borås Arena. Stefan Ishizaki, Daniel Mobaeck, Emil Bajrami and James Keene all scored for Elfsborg. Goalkeeper Johan Wiland picked up his league-leading 16th shut out of the season in the win. Wiland, however, said it was the presence of Keene that made the difference. The Englishman missed the first 20 matches of the season with a knee injury.
“James is a warrior,” Wiland said. “He will get between two defenders and fight for the ball. He is a British player and they never give up. He always provides a lift for us.”
Wiland is on pace to set the Allsvenskan record for fewest goals allowed and most shut outs in a season.
Helsingborg held onto third place, surviving a wild shootout with Norrköping to claim a 4-3 victory. Rasmus Jönson scored a pair of goals for Helsingborg, which also got goals from Roman Kiensast and Isaac Chansa. Michael Roth, Daniel Bamberg and Kevin Amuneke tallied for Peking.
Despite the win, Helsingborg has only the slimmest mathematical chance of catching Kalmar. HIF has 40 points, 11 behind the leaders and would need Kalmar to lose at least five of its final six games just to have a shot at catching the first-place side.
The same is true for 2007 champions IFK Göteborg. The Angels are currently in fourth place with 37 points and would need Kalmar to lose all of its final games to have a legitimate chance at successfully defending its title.
Göteborg kept its slim hopes alive with a 3-0 win over Halmstad. Tobias Hysen, Mattias Bjärsmyr, and Robin Söder scored for Göteborg.