OBOS LIGAEN ROUNDUP - WEEK ONE

After an arduous three month pre-season, Norwegian football finally returned to competitive action this weekend. In the OBOS Ligaen, the stand out game was clearly IK Start vs. Fredrikstad in the afternoon kick off whilst Sandnes and Elverum played out an interesting encounter a bit later on in the evening.

(Photo: Andrew Halseid-Budd www.andrewhalseidbudd.com)

IK Start 2 – 2 Fredrikstad
(Heikkila x2; Falk Larsen, Trebotic)

FotballKanalen were in attendance as Start and Fredrikstad played out an exciting 2-2 draw.

Arguably two of the biggest clubs in the OBOS Ligaen faced off against each other in what was sure to be an interesting first game of the new season. In the build up to the match, all the talk was based around how Fredrikstad would set their side up; would it be a more defensive that usual formation from the side or a new variant of the 3-5-2 Loberto used in pre-season?

For Start, the game was supposed to be an easy win after the poor pre-season form of Fredrikstad. As the game began, it was clear that this would not be the case for the home team.

Fredrikstad stifled the Start attack for 90% of the game with their solid 4-5-1 formation. Rino Falk Larsen and Dinko Trebotic were great on their respective debuts for the side whilst the already much maligned Kevin Wright turned in a performance to be proud of at left back.

Prior to the game, a lot of fuss was made (especially by myself) over the two Fredrikstad full backs; Kevin Wright and Jarkko Lahdenmaki. In my eyes the two players were weak links in the Fredrikstad team but both delivered performances to be proud of in their first outing in their new red suits.

Start’s performance was good, but not much more. Dennis Antwi could have scored twice on a better day but his radar was off when shooting, whilst 16 year old debutante Tobias Christensen was solid playing on the right wing without troubling the Fredrikstad back four much. Much hyped striker Salvesen had a poor day at the office, his constant attempts to engineer space by shifting the ball onto his dangerous left boot was all too predictable and the Fredrikstad defence dealt with his threat, or rather lack of threat, well.

Fredrikstad could have won the game had it not been for two glaring defensive errors allowing Tapio Heikkila in to score both times. Andrea Loberto will take a lot of positives from the game as his side were defensively impressive for 90% of the match but will go away disappointed having thrown away 2 points in the last minute of the game.

For Pedersen and Start, I am sure that they will be happy with a point having been just seconds away from defeat, however, the draw opens up discussion around the sides’ ability to create chances from midfield after a poor showing from new signing Niels Vorthoren.

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Sandnes 2 – 0 Elverum
(Eriksen, Sellin)

Kent Eriksen making it 1-0 to Sandnes against Elverum (Photo: Andrew Halseid-Budd)

Sandnes went into this game as huge favorites after an impressive pre-season and even more impressive transfer window. Remi Johansen, Roy Miljeteig, Tomas Kristoffersen and Kjell Rune Sellin all impressed on their respective debuts for the side against an Elverum team just getting to grips with the challenges of the OBOS Ligaen.

I singled out Kent Eriksen as Sandnes’ key man this year after the loss of Pontus Engblom in the Winter and the 25 year old forward did not disappoint as he opened the scoring for his side before turning in a performance worthy of a higher level than the OBOS Ligaen. His constant energy and pace in behind gave the Elverum back four nightmares.

The one huge positive takeaway from the game for Sandnes was the partnerships of Eriksen & Sellin up front and Johansen & Kristoffersen in midfield. Eriksen and Sellin grabbed a goal each and looked in sync throughout the game whilst Johansen and Kristoffersen dominated the game from midfield allowing Roy Miljeteig and then Bojan Zajic the license to roam in attacking midfield.

The victory was a comfortable one for Sandnes in the end but Elverum will be slightly disappointed not to have taken anything from the game. The new OBOS Ligaen side created a handful of decent chances but honestly never looked like turning the game around after Eriksen and Sellin’s first half goals.

Elverum did however certainly look like a side capable of avoiding relegation this year as there is certainly enough quality in their team to avoid the drop, whilst Sandnes looked like a side clearly strong enough to challenge for promotion.

Mjondalen 2 – 1 Arendal
(Boye, Sell; Rnkovic)

William Sell celebrates scoring against Arendal (DigitalSports)

On paper the most intriguing of the first round fixtures as much fancied Mjondalen came up against ‘Dark Horses’ Arendal.

I have praised Arendal a lot in pre-season for their exciting brand of football and interesting recruitment strategy, but coming up against seasoned OBOS Ligaen pros Mjondalen was always going to be a baptism of fire, especially with Vegard Hansen’s terrific home record at the Isachsen Stadion.

Ousseynou Boye gave the home side the lead as Mjondalen dominated early on. Both Boye and winger Amahl Pellegrino also had opportunities to further the sides’ lead later in the first half but squandered their chances.

Arendal replied in the second half and looked a much better side having presumably been spoken to candidly by manager Knut Torum at half time. 38 year old striker-cum-defender Petar Rnkovic was always going to be a threat from set plays with his height and build and the burly forward headed home from a Jakob Rasmussen corner after 57 minutes.

The game was won in the 75th minute by Mjondalen’s prodigiously talented defender William Sell. I have long been an admirer of Sell and the 18 year old center back showed good composure in front of goal by slamming home the winner after Arendal failed to clear their lines from a corner.

A good win for Mjondalen against a tough Arendal side, but seemingly work to do for the visitors if they want to live up to their tag as the OBOS Ligaen’s Dark Horses.

Best of the Rest

Elsewhere in the OBOS Ligaen, Tromsdalen surprised many onlookers with a solid 2-0 win over Asane. Goals from Anders Jenssen and Vegard Lysvoll saw Gaute Helstrup’s side go joint top with Sandnes after the first gameweek. Tromsdalen’s inactivity in the transfer market had previously worried me but new signings Grzegorz Flasza and Lasse Nilsen look to be great additions to the team.

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Ull/Kisa and Levanger were finely balanced in a 2-2 draw. The away side had most of the games’ big chances but Ull/Kisa were 2-1 up by the 90th minute thanks to debut goals from Andreas Aalbu and Nikolas Sandberg after Levanger’s new marquee signing Robert Stene had opened the scoring on 22 minutes. A stoppage time equaliser from Kim Robert Nyborg ensured that all four goalscorers scored on their debut and the two sides’ left the game with a point apiece.

Ranheim defeated a strong Strommen side 1-0 thanks to yet another debut goal, this time from striker Mikke Karlsen. Ranheim dominated most of the game and fully deserved their win whilst Strommen looked bereft of ideas going forward for much of the game.

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Finally, Floro impressed at home against an Erixon Danso-less FK Jerv as they secured a 1-1 draw on their return to the OBOS Ligaen. Terje Rognso’s side went ahead via an Endre Kupen goal before Tobias Collett scored a wonderful goal after 76 minutes for Jerv.

Bodo/Glimt take on Kongsvinger in what is sure to be an interesting encounter tomorrow night to round off the week’s OBOS Ligaen action.