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Three-horse race in Finland goes to final furlong

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012, 11.17CET
HJK Helsinki may be just three games away from defending their title, but with FC Inter Turku and TPS Turku hot on their heels, a dramatic finale is in store in the Finnish First Division.
by Mikael Erävuori
from Helsinki
Three-horse race in Finland goes to final furlong
Inter Turku (in black-and-blue) are challenging HJK for top spot ©Esko Anttikoski
Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012, 11.17CET

Three-horse race in Finland goes to final furlong

HJK Helsinki may be just three games away from defending their title, but with FC Inter Turku and TPS Turku hot on their heels, a dramatic finale is in store in the Finnish First Division.

With three rounds of fixtures remaining, and the top three teams separated by only two points, the upcoming international break is a welcome opportunity for the Finnish First Division to draw breath.

Title holders HJK Helsinki once again lead the way, but last season's 24-point winning margin now seems ancient history. Their closest challenge this time around has come from south-west Finland, with FC Inter Turku a point adrift in second and TPS Turku a further point shy in third.

With all three sides edging 1-0 victories on the most recent matchday, the final furlong remains too tight to call. "Everything is still possible," said Inter Turku coach Job Dragtsma, whose team had accrued just four points from five games prior to Monday's 1-0 win against IFK Mariehamn. "This result was much needed, because I sensed an element of fear after not winning in recent weeks. This win was important ahead of the last three matches."

With a fortnight until the next set of games, the championship race is tantalisingly poised. "You never know whether it is good or bad," said Dragtsma. "In two weeks you can prepare well for the next game. In that next match Haka need the points and so do we. Everybody need points; we'll see what happens."

Many wrote off the chances of TPS when Finnish international Toni Kolehmainen left for Norway's Hønefoss BK in August, but Marko Rajamäki's side have proved the doubters wrong. A succession of injuries prompted Rajamäki to exclaim his desire for TPS merely to stay in contention going into the international break; they are very much still in the hunt.

Though leaders HJK have everything in their own hands, any slip would make the 22 October Turku derby a potentially defining day in the title chase. Nonetheless, Sixten Boström was on Tuesday announced as the capital club's coach for next term, leaving current incumbent Antti Muurinen with even more motivation to mastermind a fitting finale.

Last updated: 27/03/14 13.51CET

http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=fin/news/newsid=1875204.html#three+horse+race+finland+goes+final+furlong

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