HJK v SJK
HJK’s hacky season start only continued as guests at Elisa Stadium in Vaasa against VPS. While the overall performance was slightly brighter than in a few games, the end result did not raise any hopes.
They still struggled to create the amount of proper scoring chances that they rely so heavily now on. I would also put the goal more on a personal mistake from VPS left fullback Martti Haukioja, who made his worst game so far for VPS, than on a successful strategy.
VPS were not exactly completely harmless either, as they managed to create a few solid chances for Steven Morrissey. As Kaan Kairinen took an idiotic second yellow card, the hosts started to dominate the game. HJK were close to lose the lead in the 88th minute, but left wingback Elderson saved his team with his hand from the goal line.
Another red card and a penalty. However, Jerry Voutilainen bottled it, and HJK looked like they would grab a much-needed win. To my surprise, a missed penalty did not demoralize VPS, instead Hindrek Ojamaa became the unexpected hero by scoring his first Veikkausliiga goal in the very last seconds of the match. A deserved equalizer, to say the least.
SJK drew 1-1 at Lahden Kisapuisto, where the hosts refused to lose once again. FC Lahti’s offense showed a bit better signs than earlier this season, but they did, as many others this year, make Jesse Öst look better than he is in SJK goal. Defensively SJK were not as good as I expected, but they almost managed to keep a clean sheet.
Offensively, on the other hand, SJK were simply worthless until Ukrainian left winger Denys Oliinyk was subbed in for Jesse Sarajärvi, who really should not be in a league starting eleven. Oliinyk made a huge difference, exemplifying his impact by scoring a beautiful 0-1 goal. However, FC Lahti, as per this year’s tradition, bounced back in the end.
Moshtagh Yaghoubi will make a return to SJK’s starting eleven after being suspended. All eyes will be on the midfielder, who will seek a sweet revenge on his former club. It will either end with him making a huge positive impact, or the contrary in form of a red card. HJK’s defense is lacking Elderson and Faith Friday Obilor as well as Kairin from the midfield.
Right wingback Nikolai Alho was superb against VPS as was Lassi Lappalainen – finally. I could see Alho wreaking havoc against SJK as well, but I see a lot of value in SJK here against a undermanned HJK.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK +0.75 at 1.780
FC Honka v VPS
Honka were banging their head against Jarkko Wiss’ Ilves, who defended once again in a praiseworthy fashion. Vesa Vasara has been challenged tactically quite a few times this year, and it is time for him to start pulling rabbits out of his strategical hat if he wants Honka to go for the title when HJK are struggling.
A semi-low block defense seems to be poisonous to Honka, who do get the ball distributed around the box. However, once trying to break into the box against such defensive formation and an aggressive pressure around the box, Honka’s weapons become surprisingly blunt.
I could see this year’s VPS managing to keep Honka in a similar fashion from the box. The young and raw squad adjusts the lack of experience with a tough mentality, although the inexperience at times concedes goals. Just like against HJK. I would be surprised if Martti Haukioja did not learn from his lesson. The young fullback did not check his radar after a negative transition, allowing Lappalainen to sneak freely to a scoring position in the box.
What speaks for VPS gritty squad is the fact that, although no wins so far, they have refused to lose since the season premier against Inter. It was also the first time this year that they were in a losing position when HJK scored. Save for the scoreless Ilves draw, they have scored the opening goal.
It will be interesting to see Honka against this VPS, as winger Juha Hakola will face his former side, and Vesa Vasara is forced to do some adjustments in the defensive line. Gideon Baah, who has been surprisingly poor in my opinion, is likely to miss this match, as is fullback Henri Aalto. I do not see VPS losing by a big margin here, if they lose at all.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +1.00 at 1.890
RoPS v Ilves
After beating HIFK on home turf by 1-0 with a rather cautious performance, RoPS went to Veritas Stadium to visit FC Inter in Turku. As gaffer Toni Koskela expressed himself in the post-match interview, his team was not well prepared for the match.
The hosts got off to an explosive start, as veteran striker Timo Furuholm lobbed the opening score over RoPS goalkeeper Antonio Reguero in the fourth minute. Inter’s high and aggressive pressure was too much to handle for the team that last year was very efficient in passing opposition pressure.
Miro Tenho added the lead to 2-0 from a corner kick 3 minutes later, and the match was basically over. In Koskela’s defense, he had once again a very thin roster to use, as Sergio Llamas, Tarik Kada, and Aleksandr Kokko were injured. Timo Stavitski is also still in rehab.
Ilves 517 minutes long clean run this year saw its end against Honka, as Juha Hakola became the first player in Veikkausliiga 2019 to score behind Mika Hilander. However, the league leaders managed to keep their undefeated run as the brilliant Brazilian midfielder Jair leveled the score in the 89th minute.
The goals do not tell the exact story of the game, as it was Honka’s goalkeeper Tim Murray that kept his team hanging on. Ilves did not exactly create shots from golden zones as their opponents like to, instead, they were very dangerous from the edge of the box.
Ilves are somehow good at creating chances from distance and by building up offense through longer passes, as they did against Honka who were immediately harassing the defender on ball at the half court line.
What Jarkko Wiss has truly mastered with his squad is the defensive work, quite obviously. The grittiness in defense is simply admirable, as they do not give an inch for free. I would expect Hilander to keep another clean sheet, however, I am not entirely convinced on Ilves scoring against a RoPS, who I imagine to take a similar position as against HIFK.
Ilves struggled to create anything dangerous against VPS who relied on low block defense at Ratina, resulting in a scoreless draw. Additionally, Lauri Ala-Myllymäki’s condition is questionable, as is Ilari Mettälä’s. RoPS situation in offense is way worse, therefore I see Ilves continuing their undefeated run.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves DNB at 1.670
Preview by: @konformisten.
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