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Season review: Finland

Published: Sunday 30 November 2014, 16.21CET
HJK Helsinki claimed a sixth successive title – and made it a double this time – while promoted SJK Seinäjoki shook up the old order by finishing second.
by Mikael Erävuori
from Helsinki
Season review: Finland
Mika Lehkosuo stormed to a domestic double in his first season as HJK coach ©AFP/Getty Images

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Published: Sunday 30 November 2014, 16.21CET

Season review: Finland

HJK Helsinki claimed a sixth successive title – and made it a double this time – while promoted SJK Seinäjoki shook up the old order by finishing second.

There was little to impede HJK Helsinki as they marched to a domestic double in 2014, with promoted SJK Seinäjoki the best of the rest in a season in which TPS Turku,  FC Honka Espoo and Myllykosken Pallo-47 dropped out of the Finnish Veikkausliiga.

Champions: HJK Helsinki
After winning their first two games, hot favourites HJK experienced a surprising wobble, taking just one points from their next three fixtures – an aberration that prompted coach Sixten Boström's dismissal. Former Honka Espoo boss Mika Lehkosuo stepped in and switly restored order: HJK claimed seven straight league victories under the new man without conceding, went unbeaten in his first 18 top-flight matches, and eventually clinched the title with four games to spare. "We have had a lot of matches in a short period, but we have been able to get results and this is reward for that," Lehkosuo said after the 4-1 success at TPS that confirmed his side's triumph.

Cup final: HJK Helsinki 0-0 FC Inter Turku (aet, HJK win 5-3 on penalties)
Eager to make up for an otherwise disappointing campaign, Inter Turku made HJK work, but despite decent chances for both teams, penalties ultimately decided the final. HJK scored all five of their efforts while Toni Doblas saved Ari Nyman's attempt. "I made one save – it was not the most important thing," concluded the Spanish custodian. "It was more important that all our players scored. All finals are a big event and winning is always great."

European places*
HJK Helsinki – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
SJK Seinäjoki – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Lahti – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
VPS Vaasa – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

* Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

©AFP/Getty Images

Toni Doblas and Robin Lod

Player of the year: Robin Lod (HJK Helsinki)
The young HJK midfielder took a step up this term with six goals and six assists, and was a regular as his club battled their way into the UEFA Europa League group stage. He was also nominated as Finland's best Under-21 player of the season, having turned 21 in April.

One to watch: Johannes Laaksonen (SJK Seinäjoki)
In his first season in the premier division, the 24-year old midfielder cut quite a dash, playing a significant role in the Seinajoki outfit's unexpected push for a European place. A first senior call-up by Finland rewarded his labours.

Surprise package: SJK Seinäjoki
Some backed SJK to do well in their first top-tier campaign, but Simo Valakari's men did far better than most envisaged, showing consistency and maintaining a berth at the elite end of the table throughout. Those warning that a sticky patch would come were disappointed, SJK breezing to a second-placed finish and their first European qualification.

Leading scorers: Jonas Emet, FF Jaro (14), Luis Solignac, IFK Mariehamn (14)

Relegated: TPS Turku, FC Honka Espoo, Myllykosken Pallo-47

Promoted: HIFK Helsinki, FC KooTeePee, FC Ilves Tampere

Number: 27
Title No27 means HJK are far and away the most successful side in Finnish history; nearest rivals HPS Helsinki and FC Haka have nine each.

Quote
"All in all, this has been a top season and we have enjoyed every moment. We have been a team this season and I am very pleased for the players, who have worked really hard."
SJK coach Valakari reflects on a job well done by the top-division debutants

Last updated: 27/01/15 18.36CET

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