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Finland herald new name at top table

Published: Wednesday 5 November 2008, 11.32CET
While HJK Helsinki's Finnish Cup win came as little surprise, trophy engravers in Finland are quickly becoming accustomed to another name, after FC International Turku claimed their maiden Veikkausliiga title.
by Mikael Erävuori
from Helsinki
Finland herald new name at top table
Inter Turku's home is quickly being accustomed to success ©FA of Finland/Jussi Es
Published: Wednesday 5 November 2008, 11.32CET

Finland herald new name at top table

While HJK Helsinki's Finnish Cup win came as little surprise, trophy engravers in Finland are quickly becoming accustomed to another name, after FC International Turku claimed their maiden Veikkausliiga title.

While the engraver charged with etching the name of the Finnish Cup winners into the trophy would have had no problem with ten-time winners HJK Helsinki, a new name appeared on the Veikkausliiga and League Cup trophies with the emergence of FC International Turku.

Meteoric rise
Few would have imagined that 18 years after the club's creation as a youth team, Inter would be looking down on the rest of Finnish football. The senior side entered the fourth tier in 1992 and had reached the Veikkausliiga by 1996, yet they were largely also-rans, finishing seventh last term. So it came as something of a surprise when Inter Turku claimed their first major domestic trophy in April's traditional season curtain-raiser, beating rivals TPS Turku in the League Cup final. It was merely the prelude.

Fast start
The Sinimustat (Black and Blues) began the league campaign with four successive wins to claim an early lead and never lost it. It was not until late August, in their 18th game of the season, that HJK finally dealt them their first defeat of the campaign and Job Dragtsma's men responded by winning their next four matches, scoring 13 and conceding none. The title was all but theirs, a 2-0 victory against FF Jaro on the final day of the season sealing their maiden championship.

Lahti history
FC Honka Espoo pushed them all the way, however, a sequence of six successive wins toward the back end of the campaign pushing them into contention. Losses in the last two games ultimately proved decisive, while below them third-placed FC Lahti were finishing strongly, winning their last three games to claim their highest ever Veikkausliiga finish despite losing striker Berat Sadik to DSC Arminia Bielefeld in June.

Newcomers
The challenge of pre-season favourites TPS Turku and Tampere United failed to ignite as they finished sixth and seventh, while HJK were blighted by inconsistency as they came fourth. At the other end of the table there were fewer surprises, a run of four wins in their last eight games sending IFK Mariehamn clear of the relegation zone at the expense of KuPS Kuopio. KuPS were reprieved by a 2-1 aggregate victory against FC Viikingit in the promotion/relegation play-offs, though there was no saving FC KooTeePee. They mustered just eight points all season and their Veikkausliiga place will be taken by JJK Jyväskylä, promoted for the first time. If Inter Turku's rise is any guide, JJK could be in line for the 2021 title.

Last updated: 05/11/08 13.07CET

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