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Season review: Finland

Published: Tuesday 29 October 2013, 17.46CET
HJK Helsinki finished the season 20 games unbeaten to win a fifth straight Veikkausliiga title while cup honours went to unfancied RoPS Rovaniemi for the first time since 1986.
by Mikael Erävuori
from Helsinki
Season review: Finland
HJK goalkeeper Ville Wallén and coach Sixten Boström hold the league trophy ©Jussi Eskola/www.palloliitto.fi
Published: Tuesday 29 October 2013, 17.46CET

Season review: Finland

HJK Helsinki finished the season 20 games unbeaten to win a fifth straight Veikkausliiga title while cup honours went to unfancied RoPS Rovaniemi for the first time since 1986.

At the midway point of the season HJK Helsinki's grip on the Veikkausliiga crown seemed to be loosening, but in the end they came strong and finished top for a fifth successive year.

Champions: HJK Helsinki
HJK won their 26th Finnish title, and first under coach Sixten Boström, with two fixtures remaining. The key moment came on 18 August when HJK triumphed 4-2 at home to local rivals and then leaders FC Honka Espoo in what was the tenth game of a 20-match unbeaten sequence for the capital side between mid-June and the season's end.

Boström nonetheless acknowledged that the campaign had been challenging. In the UEFA Champions League, HJK fell at their first hurdle, losing to Estonia's JK Nõmme Kalju in the second qualifying round. "After all the difficulties, we showed we were the best team in Finland," he said.

Cup final: RoPS Rovaniemi 2-1 KuPS Kuopio
KuPS lost the Finnish Cup final for the third year running. Promoted RoPS took the honours for the first time since 1986 thanks to a second-half double by Aleksandr Kokko.

European places*
HJK Helsinki – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
RoPS Rovaniemi – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Honka Espoo – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
VPS Vaasa – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Erfan Zeneli (HJK Helsinki)
The 26-year-old impressed in his eighth season in HJK colours, scoring 11 Veikkausliiga goals and providing 17 assists. Zeneli was rewarded with a call-up to the Finland squad and his first senior cap as a substitute in an August friendly against Slovenia. "HJK is never a bad option, but I feel I would have something to offer in even bigger surroundings," said Zeneli, responding to speculation about his future.

One to watch: Tim Väyrynen (FC Honka)
The Finland Under-21 striker struggled with injury before a ball was kicked and did not hit form until the summer. Even so, Väyrynen finished with 17 top-flight goals, a total which included one hat-trick – in a 3-3 draw with JJK Jyväskylä – and two two-goal hauls. "During the opening stages of the season I just wanted to make sure I was fully fit," the 20-year-old said. "I didn't believe I could be the top scorer, though the thought was there somewhere in the back of my mind."

Surprise package: FC Lahti
With ten games gone, Lahti had just one win and five points to their name – they were second bottom and a long season lay ahead. At that juncture, Tommi Kautonen was replaced as coach by Juha Malinen, who did not so much as steady the ship but change its course completely. Come the final weeks of the campaign, Lahti had Europe in their sights yet ultimately had to settle for a fifth-place finish.

Leading scorer: Tim Väyrynen, FC Honka Espoo (17)

Relegated: JJK Jyväskylä

Promoted: SJK Seinäjoki

Number: 31
Of IFK Mariehamn's 57 league goals, 31 were scored by players who appeared for the team in less than half of the season. Indicative of the number of injuries the club had to contend with, the statistic also says a lot about their knack of finding replacements at relatively short notice.

Quote
"The players were ready for hard work and really wanted to improve themselves. We have played throughout the season as a team, it has been our strength."
VPS Vaasa coach Olli Huttunen after securing the side's first top-three position since a runners-up finish in 1998

Last updated: 29/10/13 18.32CET

Related information

http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=fin/news/newsid=2017045.html#season+review+finland

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