Inter v HJK
HJK had their best start since 1993 after winning each of their first three matches. The run saw its end Saturday when KuPS redeemed themselves as a title contender. Lehkosuo and his troops cannot hide behind exhaustion since KuPS had played as many matches thus far.
Neither did HJK center back Valtteri Vesiaho do so, as he simply told in a post-match interview that his team made a weak performance. HJK was astonishingly much troubled by KuPS high pressure, which put the defenders, especially veteran captain Rafinha, in a tight spot. Little was there help of the HJK midfield, and by the end of the halftime break and Filip Valencic was for some reason subbed out, it didn’t get any better.
There were some remarkable scenes at the beginning of the second half when Valencic left the locker room later than the rest of the squad and jumped straight over to the stands, instead of joining his teammates on the bench. Additionally, right winger Nikolai Alho made an awful performance together with Rafinha but had his coach’s trust full 90 minutes.
Inter had an even worse Saturday when they lost to their city rivals TPS. The whole defense, including goalkeeper Henrik Moisander, made a hideous performance allowing two easy goals. Moisander might be benched for this matchup since his grave mistake gave TPS the winning goal.
TPS-product Albion Ademi – now hated by TPS fans for his move to the rivals – made a surprisingly solid match up front. In addition to him, only the rest of the offensive forces, Benjamin Källman, Timo Furuholm, and Mika Ojala made a decent game.
Despite a 2-4 away win at Kemi, Inter is far away from its full potential. Meanwhile, HJK lost its momentum in its first loss. The whirlpool around Valencic is also worth noting, however, the biggest factor in this matchup is the tight history they’ve had, regardless of form. Of the past five head-to-head matches, they’ve drawn thrice and they have one win each.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Inter 1.00 at 1.800
VPS v Ilves
VPS coaching team formed by Petri Vuorinen and Ricardo Duarte made an interesting remodeling to the formation for the away game at Mariehamn. Vuorinen hasn’t used 4-4-2 in ages, which tells a lot how much more tactically reactive VPS are this year compared to earlier seasons with Vuorinen.
I don’t either think that VPS could’ve done much better for a couple of reasons. First of all, injuries for crucial offensive players in Vahtera and Morrissey is a big blow to the creativity. Secondly, the pitch in Mariehamn is still in dreadful shape so VPS traditional possession game would have been way too ambitious to execute. Thirdly, the opponent’s nihilistic philosophy on home turf is a tough bite to chew on.
So why only a draw? Well, both of the conceded goals were proper gifts from VPS defense. The first one from a weak pass from the young goalkeeper Samu Volotinen, and the second from one of the worst clearances in ages from Aubrey David, who was probably having the worst day of all the players.
Meanwhile, Ilves had a rough time at Lahti. The home side took a bit undeserved lead after 25 minutes of dull football, and the visitors could never get their chase on, despite goal scorer Anier being sent off after his second booking by the end of the first half.
Ilves just kept banging their head against a wall, never finding a way to penetrate the opponent defense. Defensively, Ilves is still fine but in the offense, they are lacking big time from last year. So far, Matias Ojala, Lauri Ala-Myllymäki, and Eero Tamminen haven’t been able to be the driving forces for Ilves, but there is still time for the younger lads to grow up.
Overall, Ilves lacks offensive depth to handle a tight match schedule, whilst VPS does have the depth, however, is still missing some crucial pieces. I’m expecting a game short on pace with VPS leading the possession and Ilves waiting patiently for the counter opportunities, but also a match short of goals. VPS is the side more prone to defensive mistakes, which is why I favor the visitors at Elisa stadium.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves DNB at 2.110
IFK Mariehamn v KuPS
Mariehamn scored for the first time since February 18th and gained also their first point of the season. Needless to say, it’s been a rough Winter and early Spring on the Åland Islands, and even though only a draw might sound like a little, it is the very least they needed from Sunday.
In the previous preview, I criticized IFK’s offense for lacking quality, and the point still stands. Maripuu made another excellent game as a deep lying midfield, but he still can’t take all responsibility to himself. Aleksei Kangaskolkka replied to my critique by netting the 1-1 equalizer and making additionally a couple of dangerous offensive moves. Other than that, I’d say IFK Mariehamn is offensively still pure garbage.
KuPS made a monstrous effort at HJK on Telia5G Arena, stripping its hosts butt naked and spanking them with an erotic 1-2 game winning goal from a counter attack. Former HIFK coach Jani Honkavaara mopped the floor with his opponent colleague Mika Lehkosuo by inserting an aggressive pressure from the very beginning. Although it was Valencic and HJK who took the lead by the fifth minute, HJK never looked comfortable enough to cruise to another victory.
The most impressive part of KuPS victory is how they handled early injuries before even half an hour had ticked on the watch. Ilmari Niskanen and Hamed Coulibaly stepped in as if they were born to win this match. However, man of the match was KuPS left fullback Luis Murillo, who showed why exactly Halmstads BK terminated Nikolai Alho’s contract, despite one remaining year and HBK being relegated to Superettan from Allsvenskan.
So, it seems like KuPS are in levels of better position prior to this match, which is also the reason why we’re going for an away win. However, my only concern is whether KuPS star players light up only for the big matches, or are they the real deal? This is your time to prove yourselves, KuPS. Don’t fail me.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS -0.5 at 2.280