Rosenborg BK players and supporters must be wondering how bad the team must get to avoid finishing first in the Norwegian Tippeligaen. The Trondheim side clinched their 13th consecutive title despite having a miserable year.
Closer than ever
The championship race was closer than ever, and was only decided by a Frode Johnsen goal in the 90th minute of the last match against SFK Lyn on 30 October, a 4-1 win. Rosenborg and rivals Vålerenga IF ended with the same number of points and the same goal difference, but Rosenborg finished top as they had scored more goals - 52 to Vålerenga's 40.
By Rise departs
Victory in the Tippeligaen could not save coach Ola By Rise his job. He will leave his post in December, thus ending a 27-year association with Rosenborg, first as player, then as goalkeeping coach, assistant coach and finally head coach. One of the keys to the club's success down the years has been their stability and continuity, but this is no longer the case. Per Joar Hansen, who replaces By Rise, will be their fourth coach in as many years.
Vålerenga's challenge was the highlight of the season for many neutrals. Steffen Iversen and Arni Gautur Arason were brought in during the summer and became instant hits at the Oslo club. Leading Stabæk IF 3-0 on the final day they would have taken the crown had it not been for Johnsen's last-minute strike for Rosenborg. A bitter pill then, but one which should be sweetened by entry into next year's UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds.
Tromsø IL also surprised people before faltering at the end. Morten Gamst Pedersen and Peter Koacs were sold in the summer and able replacements were not found. Gamst Pedersen, in particular, was sorely missed during the run-in and Tromsø ended up fourth.
It was a happier finish for SK Brann who had secured money from investors and spent it wisely. The Bergen club claimed third place and won the Norwegian Cup for the first time in 22 years after beating Lyn 4-1 in the final, with a hat-trick from Bengt Sæternes, an August arrival from Club Brugge KV.
Third last season, Stabæk's relegation certainly raised eyebrows. Coach Gaute Larsen was sacked in late September but to no avail and they joined Sogndal IF in stepping down to the first division. Another team who struggled were FK Bodø/Glimt: runners-up in the league and cup in 2003, they only kept their Tippeligaen place after ousting Kongsvinger IL in a play-off.
IK Start and Aalesunds Fotballklubb were promoted and both have a loyal following which could mean even higher attendances next year after this season's record numbers. The 2004 Tippeligaen attracted over 1.4m spectators in total - and they could not have got a more exciting finale.
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