HIFK v VPS
HIFK continued their, shall I even say, fine form with a fourth consecutive draw in Veikkausliiga, all ending 1-1 by the way. This time they met an Inter who were definitely in a fine form, hunting a fifth consecutive win.
Although I expected the guests to survive their hosts’ pressing and take advantage of the flaws in HIFK defense, well, they did not because Thodesen had made some good adjustments to those.
First of all, while HIFK were still pressing, they were not doing it as nearly as aggressively as in some other matches. Instead, with two lads on top either harassing or just observing the central defenders, a third lad was a bit below in between them, blocking passing options to the central zones. Additionally, HIFK defended surprisingly efficiently the wide areas of the pitch and did not overload their entire squad on one lateral side of the half.
Of course, it also helps to have a guy like Tiquinho in offense, who shows to be on an optimal level for Veikkausliiga. Explosive enough to beat most of the defenders to go for through balls but not really consistent and superior enough to be too good for HIFK.
VPS had a mentally extremely rough start at Wiklöf Holding Arena, where the hosts took an early lead already in the very first minute. The goal came from another huge error from center back Eero-Matti Auvinen, who cleared the ball albeit having quite comfortably space. This was by no means the first time Auvinen is at least partly the reason to a conceded goal, and I’ll tell you, there could have easily been many more goals due to Auvinen’s errs.
Now, all of the blame should not go on one player, as German goalkeeper Martin Kompalla could honestly have done better in Isaksson’s shot that found the back of the net. Looking at each conceded goal individually this season, Kompalla could get a free pass from responsibility, however, sometimes you really have to make game savers. Sure, he has made some of those as well, but it is as if most of the distance shots find their way behind Kompalla’s back.
Also, the fact that VPS did not bounce back from the early mishap is a reason of poor finishing. Alain Richard Ebwelle was all alone against IFK keeper Oskari Forsman but shot pretty much right at him. Morrissey had a header that should as well have been better, and Auvinen was close to redeem himself in the end with a neat volley, that Forsman actually deserves all the credit for stopping.
Overall, VPS poor two games prior to IFK Mariehamn would make it easy to throw a shade at this 1-0 loss, too. However, I think VPS got back towards that track they have been on earlier this season. That is, narrow margins that really never turn into their favor.
With Juho Lähde returning to the squad, VPS midfield get a much needed piece. I would happily see Jonas Häkkinen instead of Auvinen next to Timi Lahti in the defensive line, if Lähde is fit to start. Anyhow, I think HIFK’s row of draws is valued too positively, while VPS trend is not as negative as the results tend to indicate.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +0.50 at 1.700
FC Inter v Ilves
So, Inter struggled surprisingly much at HIFK. Their hosts were not as aggressive with the press as I expected, and I suppose Inter were also taken by surprise by their opponents.
Despite getting Timo Furuholm back to the starting eleven, Inter’s offense was very uncreative. Valencic goals was easily Inter’s best chance, and had it not been for the league’s best player so far this season, I think Inter would have left the capitol emptyhanded.
Now, although they did beat KuPS before HIFK, they did it only by 1-0. Sure, they did control their opponents’ offense very elegantly, and Valencic could have made at least one more goal. However, I am slightly concerned over Inter’s offensive shape and starting to wonder whether they are too dependent on the Slovenian striker.
What I am done wondering with is Ilves’ offense. It is no secret that it is the defensive work that has put Ilves so high up the table this year, however, I should have recognized better the lack of offensive creativity.
I kind of would like to call this already now, that it has been a fun ride with Wiss and Ilves 2019, but the best of it has run out now. It is a physically demanding philosophy Wiss adapts, and I am sure they are working a lot on that, but it is imminent that the combination of a tight match schedule, a narrow squad, and opponents starting to get a hunch of your style, the biggest errs need to be developed a lot.
What KuPS managed so well with against Ilves was giving Ilves a taste of their own medicine, at least sort of – to be honest it is more like how Ilves played last year. VPS did something a bit similar earlier this season, giving the initiative to Ilves, who are really, really uncomfortable in that situation. This is a very simplified version of the narrative from two games where Ilves struggled. What is remarkable about this is the fact that Ilves conceded only one goal in their two worst games.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.25 goals at 1.800
RoPS v HJK
I did not know what to expect from Pasi Tuutti in his first match as RoPS head coach. As I mentioned in the previous analysis, Toni Koskela’s last move as a head coach in Lapland was to improve the early stages of possession, making it far easier for the defenders to move the ball away from pressure. However, there was still a lot to wish for higher up the pitch.
Against SJK we saw a RoPS who really should consider themselves unlucky, or in the case of Niklas Jokelainen, be blaming themselves. RoPS had not created this many high-quality chances earlier this year, and a 1-1 draw must feel bitter.
In defense, their low block worked fairly well against SJK, who formed as expected. However, there were a few moments where Yaghoubi played a through ball over the low block into the penalty area, something we have seen plenty of HJK midfielders do in small-space passing combinations especially on the left flank.
With the quality of several midfielders to give such passes in comparison to that one in SJK, and the fact that HJK move a lot better also, I think RoPS will be in a pickle against the reigning champions, who looked a lot more liberated against KPV than ever before this season.
Now, HJK did beat KPV by 3-1, but in all honesty KPV are such a bad side that I think that even Lehkosuo’s HJK would have beaten the team that eventually would also fire their coach – so long, Jarmo Korhonen.
And even if HJK looked freer against KPV than under Lehkosuo and Sarajärvi this season, it did still look like there is a huge mental burden on several players. Some inexplicably grave passing errs, poor finishing especially from Eetu Vertainen, who otherwise made his best performance this season, and a body language of still lacking self-confidence means that Koskela has some knots left to untie until he can make this team play according to his taste.
Russian winger Ivan Tarasov seems to finally get the amount of responsibility plenty of fans have been expecting, and it showed to be a pretty good idea from Koskela to say the least.
The amount of conceded shots and the quality of those shots was bizarre under Lehkosuo, and that trend still carried partially on against KPV. The defensive responsibilities are astonishingly poorly delegated, and I feel like the two central midfielders are way too often left all alone in their defensive work, whilst the defensive line in its entirety is dysfunctional.
For this reason, I think RoPS have a good chance to snap a finger at their former coach. However, I have a hard time denying the quality in HJK’s squad, which is why I would expect to score at least a couple times, unless, the mental knots are even tighter than I foresaw.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.00 goals at 1.830
Preview by: @konformisten.
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