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Season review: Finland

Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011, 16.23CET
Coach Antti Muurinen guided his HJK Helsinki side to a famous league and cup double in Finland, HJK breaking records for goals scored and games won along the way.
by Mikael Erävuori
from Helsinki
Season review: Finland
HJK were the big winners in Finland this year ©Jussi Eskola
Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011, 16.23CET

Season review: Finland

Coach Antti Muurinen guided his HJK Helsinki side to a famous league and cup double in Finland, HJK breaking records for goals scored and games won along the way.

It was a season of domination for HJK Helsinki, who lost just four times and broke records for both goals scored and matches won en route to their third successive national crown. Their league title success came just a week after their Finnish Cup final triumph and ensured a rare double.

Champions: HJK Helsinki
HJK were hot favourites to retain the title and they lived up to their billing, winning a record 26 games out of 33 as they finished 24 points clear at the top of the standings. Head coach Antti Muurinen intelligently guided a group that had to cope with the mid-season departure of several key players – including Teemu Pukki, Juhani Ojala, Dawda Bah and Rafinha – yet kept totting up one win after another. "To be honest, this was an almost perfect season for us. Thinking about the young players coming into the squad, the European matches, and thinking about the championship, we have done well," said Muurinen.

Cup final: HJK Helsinki 2-1 KuPS Kuopio (aet)
KuPS proved tough opponents and it required a brilliant strike from the vastly experienced Jari Litmanen to break the deadlock in the 108th minute. Alexander Ring made it 2-0 before Markus Joenmäki’s late consolation. "I think we deserved to win. KuPS had their chances, but we had plenty more. I am proud of the guys, they fought hard and got their prize," said HJK goalkeeper and team captain Ville Wallén.

European places*
HJK Helsinki - UEFA Champions League
KuPS Kuopio - UEFA Europa League qualifying round 
FC Inter Turku - UEFA Europa League qualifying round
JJK Jyväskylä - UEFA Europa League qualifying round

*Exact rounds and entry subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Timo Furuholm (FC Inter Turku) 
His 22 goals – only one short of the Finnish league record – say it all for the 24-year old striker, who finally completed a full season after more than his share of injuries. "I have been fit and there were good players around me on the pitch," Furuholm explained. "I was reminded of the goal record many times, but honestly, the most important thing was to achieve a top three position in the league table."

One to watch: Alexander Ring (HJK Helsinki)
Before this season, Ring had played just seven league games on loan at Tampere United. The 20-year-old midfielder soon became a key part of the HJK midfield and so impressive were his performances that Mixu Paatelainen quickly called him up to the national side. 

Surprise package: JJK Jyväskylä
The club from the heart of Finland had struggled against relegation in previous two seasons, but this term proved completely different for JJK Jyväskylä. A third-place finish, which secured European football for the first time, was more than many expected. "It tastes sweet to reach the top three. I have even bigger dreams for the coming years, but this is an important step forward," said JJK head coach Kari Martonen. 

Leading scorer: Timo Furuholm (FC Inter Turku) 22

Number: 86
HJK Helsinki’s goal tally, beating both the league and all-time Finnish records for goals in a season. HJK found the net in 29 of their 33 games, scoring six goals three times and five on four occasions.

Relegated: RoPS Rovaniemi

Promoted: FC Lahti

Quote:
"This was one of the last finals of my career. I doubt I will be playing in another 19 years – at least not in a cup final!" The 40-year-old Litmanen celebrates lifting the Finnish Cup for the first time since 1992.

Last updated: 19/01/12 12.30CET

http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=fin/news/newsid=1716280.html#season+review+finland

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