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Norwegians on top in Royal League

Published: Monday 14 February 2005, 16.36CET
Monthly review: Vålerenga Fotball have become the first team to qualify from the opening stage. features

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Published: Monday 14 February 2005, 16.36CET

Norwegians on top in Royal League

Monthly review: Vålerenga Fotball have become the first team to qualify from the opening stage.
By Eivind Aarre

Norwegian teams continued to dominate the Scandinavian Royal League with Vålerenga Fotball becoming the first team to qualify for the second group phase after a 1-0 win at Swedish side Djurgårdens IF.

Ishizaki goal
Former AIK Solna midfielder Stefan Ishizaki responded to the Djurgården fans' boos by scoring the winning goal with a deft free-kick. "It was nice to score the winning goal on my return to Sweden," Ishizaki said afterwards.

Vålerenga make defensive additions
Besides progressing in the Royal League, Vålerenga have been busy in the transfer market in a bid to better last season's second-placed finish in the Eliteserien. They have already signed Stabæk IF centre-back André Muri as a replacement for Erik Hagen, who joined Russian side FC Zenit St. Peterburg for €1m, and are trying to tempt former Norway defender Ronny Johnsen out of retirement.

Rosenborg success
As for reigning champions Rosenborg, they returned to winning ways with a 1-0 success against Esbjerg fB in the Royal League, Ståle Stensaas scoring the winner from a 79th-minute free-kick. Rosenborg have struggled in the Royal League and cannot afford to slip up in their next match against Vålerenga- an early encounter between the two sides expected to fight it out again for Norwegian honours this year.

Injury trouble for Brann
Having lost 2-0 at Swedish champions Malmö FF, meanwhile, SK Brann have received bad news with injuries to strikers Robbie Winters and Bengt Sæternes, as well as to midfield general Martin Andresen. That said, Brann made an encouraging start to their Royal League campaign, and having already beaten Rosenborg 3-1 in a friendly at La Manga in January, their fans' optimism may for once be vindicated.

Hodgson unconcerned
The rest of the Norwegian Eliteserien will almost certainly have to take a back seat to the big three when the league season does get under way, but one club whose optimism has real conviction is Viking. The Stavanger side finished a disappointing ninth last year but they are hoping that coach Roy Hodgson's first full season in charge will inspire a serious improvement. They started 2005 with a 3-0 friendly loss against top-flight newcomers Løv-Ham, but Hodgson said: "This match was played on an artificial pitch, and I can't read anything from matches like these. It doesn't concern me in the slightest that we lost."

Last updated: 15/02/05 0.55CET

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