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Season review: Finland

Published: Monday 2 November 2009, 15.23CET
HJK Helsinki won their 22nd domestic title – and first since 2003 - with FC Honka Espoo runners-up for the second time in as many seasons, while RoPS Rovaniemi were relgated.
by Mikael Erävuori
from Helsinki
Season review: Finland
Antti Muurinen wants to lead HJK back into the UEFA Champions League group stage ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 2 November 2009, 15.23CET

Season review: Finland

HJK Helsinki won their 22nd domestic title – and first since 2003 - with FC Honka Espoo runners-up for the second time in as many seasons, while RoPS Rovaniemi were relgated.

The 2009 season in Finland proved to be as tight as predicted at both ends of the table, with the championship and relegation battles not decided until the final day of the season. HJK Helsinki won their 22nd domestic title – and first since 2003 - with FC Honka Espoo runners-up for the second time in as many seasons, while RoPS Rovaniemi were relgated.

Champions: HJK Helsinki
A draw against FF Jaro on the final day of the Veikkausliiga season was enough for HJK to take the tape. The capital side struggled early in the campaign, with a run of mid-season draws slowing their progress, but proved to be most consistent of the title competitors in the autumn. Coach Antti Muurinen was rewarded with a new deal soon after claiming the crown and is already looking ahead to 2010, saying: "Of course we want domestic success, but if I have to choose, I will put success in Europe even ahead of that." Muurinen is still the only coach to lead a Finnish club into the UEFA Champions League group stage, with HJK in 1998/99.

Cup final: FC Inter Turku 2-1 Tampere United
Titlewinners in 2008, Inter Turku found their best form in the latter part of the season. While they could only finish fifth in the league, the real reward came in the cup. Inter went behind early on in the final but came back strongly, with Timo Furuholm scoring the decisive goal 13 minutes from time. "I felt all the time we were the better team and were confident we would make it," the match-winner concluded.

Player of the Year: Wayne Brown (TPS Turku)
The Fulham FC midfielder joined TPS only weeks before the start of the season but made an immediate impact, with the club delighted to extend his spell until the end of the campaign in August. Just 21, Brown was a key figure in the TPS midfield, scoring nine goals and laying on eight more.

One to watch: Jukka Lehtovaara (TPS Turku)
The Finland Under-21 international was voted as the Veikkausliiga's best goalkeeper of 2009. Still only 21, this was his third season as first-choice at TPS and Lehtovaara is strongly tipped to be the next Finland national-team custodian too.

Surprise package: IFK Mariehamn
The pride of Åland county lost practically all of their key players from last term, and were widely tipped for relegation pre-season with experienced coach Pekka Lyyski not piecing his side together until late spring. To everyone's surprise, he composed a very well organised unit, especially in defence, which earned a fourth-placed finish – a new club best.

Leading scorer: Hermanni Vuorinen, FC Honka (16)

Number: 441
The number of Veikkausliiga games played by Myllykosken Pallo-47's 36-year-old defender Toni Huttunen – all of them for the same club. Huttunen, who retired at the end of the season, is the only player to have passed the 400 mark in terms of Veikkausliiga appearances.

Quote
"We have had a lot of bad luck and we are not as stupid as people seem to think we are. There will be changes at RoPS and we will be back. People's delight at having RoPS dead and buried is premature."
RoPS caretaker coach Jorma Turpeenniemi ponders relegation despite his side winning their last game of the season.

Last updated: 04/11/09 21.03CET

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