Malmö FF took a giant stride toward its self-stated goal of returning to European play next year when it swept aside IFK Norrköping and Kalmar FF to reach the final of the 2015/16 Swedish Cup.
Malmö faces upstart BK Häcken of Goteborg in the final May 5 at Swedbank Arena in Malmö.
For Malmö, reaching the final is only the first part of its plan. The Skåne side has its eyes firmly set on reclaiming the Lennart Johansson trophy, and its wins over defending Allsvenskan champions IFK Norrköping and perennial contender Kalmar sent a clear message that Malmö is ready for the 2016 campaign. The win over Kalmar in the semifinals came on the same day Malmö announced it had eclipsed its own Swedish records for season tickets, becoming the first club ever to top 20,500 season passes. Malmö set a record for Swedish sports teams last year when it raked in more than 235 million Swedish crowns in profit, making it the richest sports team in Scandinavia.
Money had little to do with the semifinals, however, as Kalmar outplayed Malmö in the first half when the two teams met March 19 at Gulfageln Arena in Kalmar. Brazilian striker Romario fired Kalmar into the lead after just 11 minutes and should have doubled the lead with a 32nd-minute shot only to see it carom off the woodwork.
Malmö found its pace in the second half after 10 minutes, grabbing hold of the match with a three-goal outburst. Jo Inge Berget, Malmö’s best player this preseason, set up the goal when he dribbled the ball into the box in the 56th minute only to have Emim Nouri chop him down. Team captain Markus Rosenberg took the spot kick and easily beat Kalmar goalkeeper Ole Soderberg to tie the game. Three minutes later, at the 60-minute mark, Berget and Rosenborg combined again, with Rosenborg right-footing a pass from Berget past Soderberg for a 2-1 lead. Berget got himself on the score sheet in the 63rd minute when he headed in a cross from Oscar Lewicki to make it 3-1. For the Norwegian, the goal was his seventh of the Cup. Marcus Antonsson scored a last-minute goal for Kalmar to make the score 3-2.
Malmö reached the semis after knocking off defending Allsvenskan champions IFK Norrköping 1-0 on March 12. Iceland international Vidar Örn Kjartansson scored the lone goal of the match in the 68th minute off a corner kick.
"We are all very happy to reach the final,” said Berget, who also has four assists in Cup play this season. “We said right from the start that we wanted to reach the final and win it. We put the pressure on ourselves to win and we have. We still have one more match to win, but now we can put our focus on the league.”
Häcken won its semifinal 3-2 over Hammarby on March 20 at Tele2Arena in front of more than 13,000 fans, the largest crowd to see a Cup match this season. In something of a mirror image of the Malmö-Kalmar semi, Hammarby took an early lead before Häcken came back but unlike the other semifinal, the Häcken-Hammarby match featured last-minute heroics.
Hammarby went ahead after just two minutes as Alex — aka Alexssander Medeiros De Azeredo — scored his two goal for the club. The score remained 1-0 until the 58th minute when Paulinho — aka Paolo de Oliveira — scored the first of his two goals in the game for Häcken. Paulinho shot Häcken into the lead in the 69th minute. Hammarby, however, tied the game in the 86th minute when Melker Hallberg tallied. The match looked destined for overtime until Nasiru Mohammed put Häcken back in the lead with one minute remaining in regulation time.
"I am in form and the whole team is playing well," said Paulinho. "We have a bright future in front of us and we’re not afraid to face anyone."
Kalmar advanced to the semis with a penalty-kick shootout win over Helsingborg March 13 at Olympia Stadium. Jordan Larsson, son of Helsingborg manager Henrik, missed his shot in the second round while Kalmar hit all of theirs to claim the win.
Hammarby also advanced to the semifinals with a penalty-kick shootout win in its derby quarterfinal against AIK. Hammarby goalkeeper Ögmundur Kristinson saved a pair of spot kicks as the Bajen knocked off the Gnaget 4-2 in the shootout. AIK net minder Patrik Carlgren also saved a penalty.