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Norwegians on top in Royal League

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

By Eivind Aarre

Ishizaki goal

Vålerenga make defensive additions

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."