If you bet on one of the preseason favorites to win the Allsvenskan, you lost!
Pundits (and Nordstjernan experts) all expected the battle for the Lennart Johansson trophy to come down to a fight between Malmö FF and IFK Göteborg, with AIK and Elfsborg also in the championship mix. But IFK Norrköping? Not a chance.

Everyone was wrong. Norrköping, which finished a distant 12th last season, put together a remarkable second-half run and shocked everyone by winning the 2015 Allsvenskan title. It is the 13th title for the "Peking" team, which last won the crown 23 years ago.


"I'm so happy for this success and my heart is full of joy," said Norrköping striker Alhaji Kamara, a Sierra Leone international, one of the few bona fide stars on the team. "It has been a long journey to achieve this success and we won because we were disciplined and hard working."

Kamara, who returned to Norrköping after failed stints in Scotland and Malaysia, and Iceland international Arnor Trautsson, were the only real names on a side that depended on the sum of the whole rather than individual stars. Peking manager Janne Andersson took a number of castoffs, including former Halmstad stars Emir Kujovic and Andreas Andersson, former Djurgarden prospect Daniel Sjölund and former IFK Göteborg striker Niklas Bakroth, and somehow managed to cajole career seasons out of all of them. Kujovic, who led Halmstad in scoring in 2004, had just two goals last season. This year, he had 21 to lead the league in scoring.

"What joy, I have longed and longed for this," said Johansson. "Of course I dreamed as a kid, but since 2004 I have longed. I got a second chance."

Norrköping was fifth at the midsummer break in June but came alive in the second half of the season, losing just twice in its final 20 matches. Peking racked up 44 points over that span as it pulled level and then edged in front of IFK Göteborg and AIK. Although it held the lead for the final month of the season, Peking didn’t clinch its 13th title until the last day of the season.

Final hour
Norrköping entered the final match day of 2015 facing a showdown game with Malmö FF at Swedbank Arena. Peking went into October 31 with a one-point lead over IFK Göteborg and a three-point cushion over AIK. Nothing short of a win over Malmö would give Norrköping the title and Malmö was smelling blood. The two-time defending champions were coming off their first-ever Champions League Group Stage victory and needed a win in their last league match to snatch a spot in Europe next season.

IFK Göteborg was at home to Kalmar and had to win its match to have any shot at the title. A Göteborg win coupled with a Norrköping tie or loss would give the Angels the crown. AIK, meanwhile, needed even more help as it had to beat Örebro at Behrn Arena and both front runners would have to lose for the Gnaget to sneak into the top spot.

From the onset it was clear Norrkoping had no intention of cracking under the pressure. Peking picked up a man advantage against Malmö just five minutes into the match when Sky Blues captain Markus Rosenberg received a straight yellow card after he threw a punch at Linus Walhqvist. Replays shows Wahlqvist head-butted Rosenberg when the two challenged for a high cross.

The loss of their captain seemed to deflate Malmö and it took Norrköping just 25 minutes to turn its man advantage into a goal. Kujovic scored in the 30th minute to give Peking a 1-0 win. The roar from the 4,000 Norrköping fans grew even louder when the score board flashed the news that Kalmar had taken a 1-0 lead over Goteborg.

Norrköping held its lead and slowly ground down Malmö, which continued to attack despite playing with 10 men. Peking finally secured the win when Trautsson exploited a wide-open Malmö defense to tally on a counterattack off a pass from Kujovic. The goal ended a frantic final 15 minutes for Norrköping as Malmö battled for an equalizer while the scoreboard showed Göteborg had mounted a comeback in its match and was level with Kalmar.

"This win should say enough about our team," Kujovic said. "The 1-0-goal gives us wind in the back, but I was not calm until Arnor scored the second goal, then I felt that we will win."

For Rosenberg, the loss was especially bitter. "This is just heartbreaking," he said. "I apologized to my teammates and all the fans. I thought I just finished my challenge and got swung around by him, but I did try to hit him."

Malmo finished a disappointing fifth this season after two consecutive titles and two-straight berths in the Champions League Group Stage. "What can I say," said Malmö manager Age Hereide. "Norrköping deserved to win (against Malmö) and deserved to win the championship. They were very stable all season."

Draws dash hopes
While Peking was winning, IFK Göteborg was trying to come back from a 2-0 first-half deficit against Kalmar. Only a win would put the Angels in a position to claim the title, and after the opening 40 minutes, it looked as though the pressure had gotten to Göteborg. Tobias Eriksson put Kalmar in front after 18 minutes and Papa Diouf doubled the lead at the 40-minute mark.

Göteborg, however, rallied after the interval behind newly acquired Mads Winter Albaeck. The Norwegian scored twice to pull Goteborg level with Kalmar, his second goal coming with six minutes left to play. The Angels continued to press forward to a game winner, but Kalmar managed to hold on, stealing a point while spoiling Goteborg’s championship push.

"We just ran out of time," said IFK goalkeeper John Alvbåge. "I think it just goes to show how equal all of the teams really are this year. There are no easy games any more."

AIK learned that lesson when it faced ninth-place Örebro. The home side took the lead after 40 minutes through Martin Broberg. Henok Goitom tied the match for AIK in the 60th minute.

The combined results ensured the title for Norrköping.

"This Team is absolutely fantastic. The whole team, all the players. Each workout is all in and wants to develop and perform. All are equal now," said Norrköping captain Johansson. "One can be in the top but winning is extremely difficult. Extremely difficult. There are so many talented football teams. But we are best in Sweden."