FC Lahti v FC Inter
In light of results, FC Lahti have opened their season well. A draw against a highly respected KuPS and an away win at HIFK are much valued points for a team that has been tipped to finish in the bottom of the table.
But do not let that blunder you. Let’s start with taking a closer look at the 3-3 draw against KuPS. An enormous worry is that they conceded three goals in the first half. Matti Klinga’s 1-3 goal came from a howler by the otherwise superb left fullback Luis Murillo. The following goal was a conclusion of a skilled pass, some very lazy collective defending from KuPS, and a bit of sheer luck. The equalizer was a beautiful free kick by Spaniard Josu.
In conclusion, I would put the comeback more on KuPS’ complacency after a great first half and luck, more than an actually offensively threatening Lahti. This became quite clear in Töölö as HIFK’s guests.
HIFK are, considered among many, the worst side by far in Veikkausliiga this season. Although they have shown some signs of an idea or two in their system, there are individuals even in the starting eleven that I am not sure would qualify even for the second tier. Nonetheless, Lahti did not create a squat in Helsinki, where the hosts were, in fact, creating more in the first half.
Only a great shot from 22 yards by no one else than Josu put the visitors in lead, and besides that we saw absolutely nothing by Lahti in the opposition box.
On the other hand, Inter lost against an SJK that is not either a highly regarded side. What surprised me in that match was how poorly José Riveiro adapted the home team to the horrible home pitch, something that his colleague Alexey Eremenko sr. actually did. The guests’ high pressure on a poor pitch punished big time Inter, who tried to keep the ball on ground and build up their attacking through shorter passes.
Inter were lackluster for the whole time Mehmet Hetemaj was on the pitch, who led his team’s defense with great success. There simply was no room between the defensive and midfield line, keeping Inter on a safe distance from the goal. Nevertheless, Filip Valencic scored once again, and is starting to look really scary. On an artificial turf at Lahti’s Kisapuisto, I feel confident with Riveiro and Inter against a Lahti who have collected more points than they have deserved.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Inter DNB at 1.810
VPS v KPV
A quick glance at the simplest statistics from Ilves would make one assume that Ilves deserved more than a scoreless draw. However, with a more analytical review, a scoreless draw is what exactly Ilves deserved at the most, albeit VPS only 3 shots in the game, all off target.
VPS kept their hosts away from better scoring areas, forcing golden boy Lauri Ala-Myllymäki to finish twice directly from an assist about 20 yards from the goal. Those were Ilves’ best chances save from a corner kick that was on its way above VPS goalie Martin Kompalla straight into the goal but was saved by Jonas Häkkinen’s header.
The visitors did not create much offensively, but what they created was of high quality. Steven Morrissey gave a liberating pass to Momodou Sarr for a 1v1 with the opponent goalie but was falsely flagged for offside. In the very end of the match, subbed winger Samba Sillah exploited the tired opposition defense, sprinted along his flank and gave a beautiful assist to Samu Alanko to a wide-open chance, only to see him finish wide and high.
RoPS did kind of the same trick as KPV’s guests, with the difference being KPV’s higher position in the field. RoPS lured/allowed their hosts to attack basically with the whole team, often with both of the fullbacks high up on respective flank.
As KPV never succeded to break the final line of RoPS, losing the ball in the opposition box, they continued their traditional high pressure with little success. RoPS passed themselves out of the pressure, creating several chances for overmanned transitions. However, something was clearly missing, that being Lassi Lappalainen.
Or maybe Timo Stavitski or any other of the several names on RoPS’ injury list. In the end, RoPS should have won with a bigger margin than 0-1. KPV have some huge problems with the collective offensive buildup, with some visible frustration at times. Whether this is something fixable or a problem Jarmo Korhonen can nothing to unless some lads leave the club is yet to be seen, and I think these issues will continue at Hietalahti. The home team has a huge value in here worth taking while it is still available.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS -0.25 at 1.890
KuPS v Honka
KuPS three points from their three first games – all draws – is a disappointing result, although quite typical KuPS under Honkavaara. Even though their squad has once again been ready months prior to their league rivals, something is done wrong during the offseason, hence the bad starts.
As I earlier explained in Lahti’s preview, KuPS really just screwed the three points up themselves at Lahti. After the miserable away draw, they hosted HJK in a scoreless draw. Despite only adding one point to their tally, there was a lot of good things to pick up from KuPS game.
Their defense kept HJK away from the box, and HJK are known to avoid shots outside the box at all costs. In the first half, KuPS did this by pressing aggressively high on the pitch with 3-4 players. If the first line was broken by a pass, the midfield trio dropped quickly to aid the deepest defensive line. Swapping Kalle Taimi in for Saku Savolainen as right fullback for the second half was a defensive move by Honkavaara, lowering the collective defense.
HJK’s low blocking defense kept KuPS for the most from the box, however, with the likes of Rasmus Karjalainen, KuPS have a great arsenal to take their chances from a longer distance, too. The visitors’ Maxim Rudakov turned out to be the man of the match with his multiple saves, denying KuPS to score despite an xG-value clearly above 1,0.
I will not give Honka nearly as much space in this preview. Their 1-3 home loss to IFK Mariehamn was an oddball. Kind of like Inter who lost at home to SJK mainly due to not adapting their play to a horrible pitch, well, there basically was no grass at all at Tapiolan Urheilupuoisto, I’ll tell you that. Not at all shocking that short passes and possession control is nearly impossible on a horrible pitch, which makes me wonder why Vesa Vasara did not seem to take it into regard. Also, there was some kind of a mental collapse for Honka. They were never even close of chasing back the score.
KuPS tend to light up against HJK, while also playing underwhelmingly the start of the season. Honka had just a bad day at the (home) office, and they will feel a lot more comfortable on an artificial turf – although not a good one – in Kuopio. I am looking forward to this match and I expect Honka to bounce back here.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Honka +0.25 at 1.750
Preview by: @konformisten.