Kalmar will have to wait a little bit longer to celebrate a Swedish soccer title.
Even though Kalmar FF continues to lead the Allsvenskan by three points over second-place Elfsborg, defending champion IFK Göteborg continues to plague the southern Swedish side.
Göteborg, currently fourth in the Allsvenskan, denied Kalmar a chance for a September celebration when it knocked off Kalmar on penalty kicks to win the Swedish Cup Sept. 21 at Fredriksskans Stadium in Kalmar.
Göteborg goalkeeper Kim Christensen saved a penalty shot from Marcus Lindberg before Pontus Wernblom blasted his shot past Peter Wastå to give Göteborg the victory.
The victory gives Göteborg an automatic berth in the UEFA Cup next year.
The result brought the 2007 season full circle as Kalmar pipped Göteborg in last year’s Cup final, only to lose the league title to Göteborg in the final week of the season. This year, Göteborg won the Cup but Kalmar looks all but unstoppable as it rolls toward a first-ever Allsvenskan championship.
Despite the obvious story line, players from both teams said winning the Cup was more important than any symbolism from last season. “The media made a big thing about that, but we're really not thinking about it like that,” said IFK Göteborg midfielder Tobias Hysen. “We want to win no matter who we play and we always want to win the Cup and the league. We can’t win the league this year, so it’s good that we won the Cup.”
Kalmar went into the match just as determined.
“Last year we had a big party in Kalmar even though we didn’t win the Cup,” said Kalmar captain Henrik Rydström. “We want to do that again this year, only we want to celebrate winning the Cup and the league. We want to prove we are the best team in Sweden.”
Kalmar also had revenge on its mind entering the match. Göteborg won both matches the two teams played this season in the Allsvenskan, and clearly IFK had confidence on its side.
“Kalmar is the best team in the league right now. I think that’s clear,” said IFK captain Niclas Alexandersson. “Still, we beat them twice this year, so we know how to play against them, but it’s also very difficult to win three times against the same team.”
A scoreless 120 minutes set the stage for Christensen’s heroics. The first four shooters for each side sank their shots. Lindberg was the No. 5 penalty taker for Kalmar and he looked calm as he struck his shot. Christensen, however, anticipated the flight and made a strong dive to his left, turning the ball around the post with the heel of his right hand.
Wernblom then stepped up to the spot and got Wastå to move to his right before he sent his shot to the Kalmar goalkeeper’s left.
“This was fantastic because we didn’t train much on penalties as a team,” said Göteborg coach Jonas Olsson. “Kim trained mostly on his own on stopping penalties and we knew he was good at stopping them.”
Göteborg’s Danish goalkeeper came up with a pair of huge saves in regulation and overtime as well. Christensen stopped a shot from Rasmus Elm with five minutes left in the first half. In the second, the Göteborg net minder steered a side a shot from Daniel Sobralense and then stopped the Brazilian midfielder on a break away.
Göteborg saved its best chances for the 30-minute overtime. Gustav Svensson and Robin Soder both watched as Wastå batted away their shots in the extra session.
In the shootout, Rydström and Alexandersson scored in the first round. Christensen then stepped up to the spot and fired home, matching Lasse Johansson. Victor Elm and Ragnar Sigurdsson scored in the third round, while Sobralense and Hjalmar Jönsson tallied in the fourth.
Christensen then stopped Lindberg in the fifth round, and when Wernblom beat Wastå, Göteborg began to celebrate.
“I know the Cup used to be not that big a thing, but now it’s the easiest way into Europe,” Hysen said. “We’re all really happy that we won because now we have a trophy, and next year we can play in Europe.”