Although every team has kicked off their league season, it is too early to draw any vaster conclusions for most sides. In my last preview I was nagging about the league schedule. The league format was renewed for this season, and we finally got rid of the 33 fixtures setup, which created a match overload and was in many ways dysfunctional to match quality. I would expect this to lead to fewer upsets, and a more righteous table at the end of the season.
Inter v SJK
Inter gaffer José Riveiro equaled the record between him and VPS coach Petri Vuorinen earlier this week to 1-1. VPS punished Inter’s weaknesses in the cup quarter final a week before the season premier and neutralized most of Inter’s threats.
At Elisa stadium, however, Riveiro recognized VPS weakness in build-up in their own third. There was no question of the better side, as VPS had very little to come with, and Filip Valencic was a constant threat. The Slovenian sealed the game for the visitors with an elegant brace.
I had criticized Niko Markkula for a poor game as right fullback in the cup tie, and to my surprise he started as a right winger in Vaasa. Eero Tamminen on the left flank had, once again, very little to deliver, as did his colleague on the opposite flank. However, lucky to Inter, their offensive success did not depend on them.
SJK had an awkwardly weird season opener against newcomers HIFK. The visitors had the ball and the chances the first 60 minutes until something changed completely the momentum. I am not sure what lied behind that huge swing in the match, but it is common that weaker sides – think TPS and PS Kemi last year – can hang on there for an hour or so, but if they do not manage to use their chances, they are smoked.
As I said, it is too early to draw bigger conclusions, but I like to keep on that theory as the reason to the dramatic change. Considering how poorly HIFK executed their chances, where they could have gotten to even better finishing positions, it is not completely farfetched to say that SJK were the righteous winners, albeit they took the control only for the last half hour.
Nevertheless, it is with a reservation one can justify SJK’s victory. Collectively they are still a mess with no obvious idea in the play. While SJK have some really good individuals in the likes of Denis Olinyyk, Moshtagh Yaghoubi, and Mehmet Hetemaj, they – or at least the two latter – are prone to stupidity. Additionally, Valencic is smoking hot and José Riveiro has his team playing way better collectively than Alexey Eremenko sr.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Inter -0.50 at 1.970
KPV v RoPS
KPV made a respectable performance in their league debut against a strong opposition in Ilves. 0-2 in their so-called home opener – they will play at SJK until the home soil is in acceptable shape – sounds far from positive, but there some gleams of light to see.
Although they did hold Ilves from really good scoring chances until the visitors actually opened the score, they showed some painstakingly obvious signs of naivety. After hitting the bar from 20+ yards and having another decent shot at Hilander, Ilves took the lead. Ilves gaffer Jarkko Wiss put it simply in the club match report that they lured KPV to open up and patiently waited for their chance.
Which is pretty much exactly what happened. KPV did not create much more than what I described earlier, but the more worrisome naivety came after the score opener. With 20 minutes left of the game, KPV were all out attack. Way too early, which also left their defense wide open. Ilves took their opportunity scoring once, what could have been several goals.
The big worry for RoPS has been the squad depth, which got some relief on Wednesday, when they signed winger/offensive midfielder Youness Rahimi. Not the guy to have in your starting eleven throughout the season, but a solid domestic bench player. And in fact, why not as a starter. RoPS have some really good individuals in their starting eleven, and Rahimi is not the player that makes your team look like there is one man missing.
Still, RoPS lost to Honka at home. The Toni Koskela apologetic in me wants to lift foremost two things; RoPS had started their season already on Wednesday, and with the lack of squad depth, it is no wonder that a team who finished fourth last year took the better out of them. Secondly, Honka are not only what they were last year, they are quite a lot more. Albeit they lost some pieces, such as Macoumba Kandji, they have strengthened the roster with some very strong names.
Also, what we saw by Honka at Rovaniemi was simply mesmerizing. It was also by far the best Veikkausliiga game so far this season. I would not be too worried for RopS after that loss. However, I would be surprised and worried if Toni Koskela would not manage to beat his colleague Jarmo Korhonen, who showed the naivety against Ilves. A somewhat better away squad and a far better away coach should get the full three points for a huge value.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: RoPS -0.50 at 2.310
Ilves v VPS
As I explain in the preview for KPV v RoPS, Ilves had a fair travel to OmaSP Stadium in Seinäjoki as KPV’s guests. Wiss and Ilves showed why kPV belong in the bottom half of the table and why Ilves belong in the other half.
While they did show tactical maturity against KPV, I am stil, not sure what to put off Ilves performance against Honka in the cup quarter-finals. I am still quite baffled that Honka did not go through from the tie, albeit they were not that superior. It was more of the weirdly open Ilves defense in Honka counter-attacks that shocked me. And the fact that Honka did not exploit those chances.
VPS, on the contrary, put up a disappointing performance in their league opener after a solid cup quarter final. The defensive line of Ojamaa, Häkkinen, Auvinen, and Haukioja has a very low average age and lacks the routine of Engström, Lahti, or Holmgren to keep some stability in nerves. Additionally, the Gatambiye-Voutilainen-Laatikainen midfield trio was pressured hard by Inter, which they handled rather well. Weird enough, it got only worse when team captain Sebastian Strandvall entered the pitch and had his worst game in ages.
Since VPS could barely break through the first opposition line, especially in the second half, it is no wonder that the season opener ended with a defeat. Although Valencic scored the game-winning 1-2 goal during the very last minutes of the game, it was far from undeserved.
There is a stark contrast between these two sides season openers, however, the opposition for respective team was of quite different level. Ilves are favourites here for a reason, although not that big favourites. Wiss and Vuorinen have a huge respect for each other, which has ended often in a very boring scoreless cat-and-mouse play. VPS are a better team away than at home, and I would be surprised if they lost with several goals.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +1.00 at 1.680
Preview by: @konformisten.