Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Malta/Italy September 2017

1st September 2017  Malta 0 England 4  World Cup qualifier.  16,994 (c. 3500 away)

Malta has experienced many invasions over the centuries, this time it was mainly from overweight middle-aged men.
Who sang about 'don't take me home', only to leave well before the end.
And 'we're not very good' whilst failing to see the three late goals that gave England another step on the way towards Russia 2018.

Ok it certainly looked laboured at times and we created little for long periods.
But, by design or otherwise, with Malta weakening Southgate brought on more forwards and they comfortably finished the job.
Kane scored twice, Welbeck once (after a miss) and Bertrand netted a left foot drive that went over the goalie.

Apart from the football the island offers plenty of history and some spectacular scenery.
It felt a little like the Middle East, not least with the Arabic influenced local language.

You have a mix of the ancient (eg Mdina) and modern (large hotels in the northern bay areas)
And at this time of year religious festivals feature with towns bedecked in flags and churches beautifully lit.

For this author it was very hot and finding your way around tricky, especially at night.
The road signage is poor, at best.
And filling up with petrol at weekends means using euro notes, only (no credit cards, or coins)

But the locals were always helpful.

3rd September  Cremonese 3 Avellino 1  Serie B  6,662 (c. 400 away)

One route back was via Italy and I flew to Treviso and onward by train to Cremona.
Which is another of the many attractive Italian cities, famous for its violin manufacturers (amongst other things)

Cremonese were returning to the second level after a long break.
They are a club that participated in the old Anglo-Italian Cup (at Wembley) and can include Gianluca Vialli and Anders Limpar amongst their past players.

On this Sunday evening the ultras put on a good show and their team responded.
Daniele Croce was often instrumental in many of the home moves which often went down the left wing.
Although Avellino, who also had decent support, quickly equalised the Cremonese opener the home side would go ahead just after the half hour.
They stayed in front before adding a late third in the closing minutes.

Much to the enjoyment of the home crowd.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Denmark August 2017

25th August 2017  Silkeborg 0 Hobro 2   Superliga.  4,975 (c. 200 away)

One of the nicer, small, new-builds. Two tiers with an excellent mix of terrace and seats at either end.

Based north of the town, in the opposite direction to the old ground (whose tall floodlights are still visible)

Newly promoted Hobro won with a goal in each half from Norwegian Pal Kirkevold.

While Silkeborg struggled to create and were inaccurate when they did get close.

Hobro moved up to an unlikely 2nd in the table.

26th August  Helsingor 2 Randers 0  Superliga   1,619 (c. 50 away)

Another team newly arrived in the top level.

Helsingor reside in a small ground about 15 minutes walk from the famous Kronborg ('Hamlet') castle.
With its old wooden stand, semi-temporary seating and makeshift VIP area it has a homely appearance more suitable for lower levels.

But you can't deny the team is doing fine.
And that is with players that are mostly semi-pro.

In a game of few chances two goals from striker Andre Riel were enough to secure the points against an opposition side winless and bottom of the league.

On a mild afternoon I strolled back, admiring the Marienlyst palace and the aforementioned castle (and not forgetting the impressive station architecture)
Within 50 minutes you are back in Copenhagen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sweden August 2017

3 games in Sweden including a visit to the centre of the country.

19th August 2017  AFC Eskilstuna 3 Malmo 1   Allsvenskan 3115 (c. 200 away)

After various changes of name and location AFC seem to have settled in Eskilstuna, south of Stockholm. They play at the historic '58 World Cup venue of Tunavallen.

Which is now a neat ground with apartments in each corner, from where quite a few fans watched this match.
Not many Malmo fans made the journey north east, apparently as a protest against the ownership of the home club.

Those that did were in for a surprise as the leaders were well beaten by the bottom club.

Sierra Leone striker Turay was the star, scoring two great headers, and celebrating by recognising the recent troubles of his home country. And also doing a handstand.

He later went off to a great ovation.

Eventually Malmo brought on Sarfo and talent Svanberg but they only had a Berget penalty as a response.
It was a fine win for English coach Michael Jolley and may help AFC escape relegation.

20th August  Ostersund 0 AIK 3   5,779 (c. 200 away)

I took the morning flight from Arlanda with the AIK team and officials for this trip to the centre of Sweden.
We arrived at midday for the 3pm kickoff.
But it was enough time to settle in my central hotel and stroll around the fairly quiet city where there was a small protest by hospital staff (something that was apparently occuring in other parts of the country)

Out near the well known winter sports area is the Jamkraft Arena in which a decent crowd turned out including a typically lively group of black-clad AIK ultras.

On another artificial pitch the visitors took their chances and ran out comfortable winners.
Though they were helped by the dismissal of English midfielder Curtis Edwards.

It was a chilly and wet afternoon and I was glad of a post match steak and weiss beer.

21st August  Sundsvall 1 Kalmar 3   3818 (c. 10 away)

The train from west to east takes around 2.5 hours and as you might expect passes through lakes and wooded areas.
Eventually arriving in the coastal city of Sundsvall with its pleasant centre and tree-lined streets.

The nearby stadium has a long history having been originally opened, with the club, in 1903.

On this Monday night with both sides threatened by relegation it was the away team that produced the goods.
An opportunist strike, an own goal and decisive hit from Viktor Elm (brother of Rasmus) enabled them to secure the points

Though their best player, and target for other clubs, Eric Larsson produced some good work down the right it only resulted in one reply.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Norway August 2017

3 games in Norway including a visit to the Arctic.

5th August 2017  Rosenborg 4 Kristiansund 1  Eliteserien  17,214

Via Oslo to Trondheim where it was somewhat festive with a medieval market, nice riverfront and a vibrant centre.

The home side consolidated top position mostly thanks to Bendtner and Helland.

6th August  Tromso 1 Molde 2  Eliteserien 3,812 (c. 40 away)

Up in the Arctic, on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, Solksjaer's Molde edged the home side thanks to a winner from Erling Haaland (son of Alf-Inge)

An idyllic setting, at least in the summer, with wooden houses, the Arctic cathedral and snow-capped mountains in the background.

7th August  Stromsgodset 2 Valerenga 0  Eliteserien  6,836 (c. 300 away)

Back in Drammen, near Oslo, this was a lively encounter won with two first half strikes.

Enjoyment of the home crowd characterised by rhythmic clapping but not so much by the away ultras.