IFK Mariehamn v FC Honka
IFK Mariehamn made another sad trip to the mainland, this time losing far away from home in Rovaniemi. Although the scores were even until the 86th minute, RoPS were on the top of their guests in full 90 minutes. Only Igor Levchenko and some nervy finishing from Erfan Zeneli and Agnaldo Moraes kept the score tidy so long.
Levchenko has been a brilliant signing for the bottom side, as the islanders’ goalkeeping had been painful the whole season. However, it has not been enough to pull the club up further away from the absolute bottom. Keaton Isaksson and Hamed Coulibaly have not yet made big enough difference on the outfield, and I am starting to question whether this year’s IFK will get any better.
Honka are right now favorites to finish third, although whoever finishes third, will be a rather weak side. Honka have simply made the least weak season so far of the teams below HJK and RoPS, so to say. Considering that Honka got promoted in October, it is a triumph, absolutely. Honka’s in-game dips, however, are too frequent and costly, which is visible in draws against Ilves and Kemi, for example.
However, at home against TPS Honka made their visitors look like they deserved to be dead last in the table. As I mentioned in that preview, Macoumba Kandji is smoking hot, and he continued his extraordinary form with a brace.
The visitors are favorites to win here, and very deservedly so. Mariehamn have been earlier seasons a tough bite for possession favoring sides, but this year they have been harmless against RoPS and VPS. Honka falls roughly in the same category and should have an easy win at Wiklöf Holding.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Honka -0.50 at 2.030
FC Lahti v RoPS
Although neither really losing or winning recently, FC Lahti are still tightly in the race for the last pole position. Last round at home against Inter, Lahti tried to bomb through the – at the moment – tightest defense in the league by crossing, which has been Korkeakunnas’ main, possibly even only, option in offense.
John Allen’s and Kari Virtanen’s reformation of Inter defense held out successfully at Lahti, and in the end, it was not far off from paying off with three full points. With that said, Lahti did not exactly play poorly against Inter, they just lack the fantasy, as per tradition.
RoPS had a period of slight decadence around the times Wato Kuaté left the club and injuries plagued the squad. Those times are far gone and RoPS are unquestionably second in the table and playing brilliant football once again. Erfan Zeneli has looked decent so far, although I would take a few more games to see whether he is a worthy addition or not.
Vahid Hambo, on the other hand, is exactly what RoPS board hoped or expected Aleksandr Kokko would be as he returned from Asia to Lapland. Kokko got, unsurprisingly, injured very soon but as Hambo was shown the door in SJK, RoPS found an excellent replacement.
Toni Koskela’s stupid, sexy football is back and while it is not flawless, it is not far from it. There is enough offensive diversity in comparison to, say VPS, as RoPS players are willing to take risky shots outside of the box while leaving options to penetrate the opposition defense by passing. The fact that there is still use of a bulky striker like Hambo is quite the example of Koskela’s diversity and ability to utilize individual qualities.
Lahti may try crossing from the wide, but with solid fullbacks in Taiwo and Järvenpää and headstrong center backs in Väisänen and Hämäläinen, this plan will fall short just like against Inter.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: RoPS DNB at 2.360
SJK v Ilves
The derby weeks against VPS were highly successful for SJK. Albeit it did not bring them full 6 points, a home draw and an away win gave more than a spark of hope for Eremenko sr.
Ironically, it was the scoreless home game which SJK had under control and deserved a win. In contrast, the 0-2 victorious away game was dominated by their hosts, especially the first half, but Ukrainian Denys Oliynyk’s brace was a personal show-off.
Oliynyk’s goals were, in fact, so stunning that many started to question if he should be at all in Veikkausliiga. Others replied with doubt saying it is too early to praise him to skies, however, it is a remarkably fast adaption considering he had played only 38 minutes against IFK Mariehamn before facing VPS twice.
Nonetheless, that was what gave SJK full 3 points in a match where Oliynyk’s teammates were more focused on foul game and drawing cards. Henceforth, I would not be too excited for Eremenko’s future at the club, but a positive derby record 2018 has some value.
Ilves pulled off a nice trick in front of the home crowd, as they bounced back from 1-3 to 3-3 in the final fifteen minutes. Where it earlier has been much Marius Noubissi’s responsibility to add Ilves’ marks on the scoreboard, this time we saw winger Eero Tamminen flourish.
3 conceded goals at home against Honka was shocking to see, albeit at Tapiola Honka scored up to four times against Ilves, as Jarkko Wiss’ troops are usually tough against the likes of Honka, that are RoPS and VPS. Keeping SJK’s offense mute should not be a challenge, so anything but a loss is expected from the visitors.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves 0.25 at 1.780
Make sure to check our Athletic Bilbao v Leganes match preview!