Honka v HJK
FC Lahti offered, once again, some very bizarre football as they hosted Honka last round. They scored 3 goals in 15 minutes against one of the top sides. Sounds impressive, but the goals came extremely luckily.
Sure, Honka’s defenders reacted very poorly to the long ball that led to the opening goal. However, the following two goals were a result of a bamboozle. I would not draw that big conclusions out of a comical 15-minute period against the oddball known as FC Lahti.
Just like their rivals, HJK suffered a shocking away defeat against a presumably much weaker side. Next-to-last KPV made the reigning champions look like a side fighting against relegation.
The question is how much has actually changed since Mika Lehkosuo was sacked and Toni Koskela was bought as his replacement? Sure, the squad is lacking some absolute peak quality, which Aki Riihilahti has admitted as a consequence of several failed transfer windows.
However, this does still not justify HJK’s poor placement in the table, and especially not their very weak performances in the past month. HJK have been rubbish both in European and in domestic competitions, and I would start counting out them from the league title race.
There was no doubt that HJK were in crisis when Mika Lehkosuo was sacked. What is worrying is that they seem to be in the same state months later. There is an actual risk that HJK are losing their status as national giants and failing to beat Honka will only increase that risk.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Honka +0.25 at 1.810
KuPS v VPS
KuPS took a huge win at Tammela as they beat Ilves and narrowed the gap to the peak of the table. It was also KuPS first win away at Ilves since the early nineties, which to me, confirms that Jarkko Wiss and Ilves are no longer a boogeyman for KuPS and Honkavaara.
I am not sure if Ilves success this year has forced them to play more openly against KuPS than the earlier seasons, which evidently has given only poor results. During the first half there was a period when the game was slow-paced, and it seemingly fitted Ilves better.
However, as the pace grew and the ball was moved very quickly up the field by both sides, the discrepancy in physical quality became clear. KuPS players won most of the duels, and especially the midfield battles were quite clearly in KuPS favor.
Now, had KuPS hosted Petri Vuorinen’s VPS I would have never doubted any other result than a home victory. However, Christian Sund’s VPS is now, after finally winning their first game of the season, a very different VPS.
As VPS won the ball deep in their own defensive zone, the players were not scared to move forwards quickly, contrary to what it used to be. There is a fighting spirit in VPS that had been gone for a good while, which Christian Sund himself exemplified by being sent off after a dubious penalty call.
KuPS are favorites for a good reason, however, I see hope at the end of VPS tunnel now. The home team could stumble on complacency here.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +1.25 at 1.720
IFK Mariehamn v SJK
So, Mariehamn were the ones to end VPS drought and lose at Elisa Stadium. Offensively they were rather harmless, producing some minor threats mostly on the wide.
The only scoring chances IFK Mariehamn really created were from set pieces – the penalty kick that gave the equalizer, and a free kick that hit the crossbar. Defensively Mariehamn looked slow and were surprisingly high up the pitch, which allowed VPS fast passing combinations to penetrate the last defensive line.
In all honesty, the match could have ended in an even bigger win for the home team, who got their game winner in the last minute of injury time. Anything else would have been flattering towards IFK Mariehamn, something Keaton Isaksson admitted in the post-match interview.
SJK became the latest of the many teams to sack their coach this season. Alexey Eremenko sr. saw his exit as their upcoming hosts robbed them at OmaSp by 0-2. The timing was a bit odd but sacking him was the correct choice.
Eremenko sr. said the very first day he arrived at the club that the players lack stamina. Over a year later and SJK’s problems are still the same. The intensity Eremenko sr. required from his players was simply too demanding, which nearly always ended with a very tired SJK in the last fifteen minutes.
Recently, SJK have been struggling with scoring which was another issue under Eremenko sr. The lone striker has always been, well, too lonely and received quite difficult balls to work with. However, SJK created quite the amount of chances and missed a penalty against RoPS in the scoreless draw.
IFK Mariehamn did not impress at all at VPS, while SJK needed a refreshing stir by changing the manager. I consider IFK Mariehamn overvalued here.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK +0.50 at 1.860
Preview by: @konformisten.
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