The Wild Tigers of FC Nordsjaelland is an obvious place to spend a Monday night. Unlike the predictability of the Scottish Premier League, Denmark does at least offer some competition despite the dominance of FC Copenhagen. After round thirteen of Superliga games FCK were just 14 points clear of second place, but had been dumped out of the Danish Cup. With second place now gaining access to the Champions League (ironically potentially at the expense of Scotland) FCK’s triumphant march to a seventh title in ten years is not seen as a show stopper anymore.
Instead the focus turns to those teams who could grab that second place. Brondby, despite all of their “rebirths”, internal restructures and false dawns had yet to convince anyone that they would be dusting off their passports next season. Instead well run smaller clubs such as OB, FC Midtyjlland and FC Nordsjaelland now have a shot, allowing the fruits of their young set ups to get a foot in the first team and shine.
FC Nordsjaelland are probably the best example of how to get the basics right in Denmark. They have a solid youth structure, invested carefully and progressively in their Farum Park ground in the northern reaches of Copenhagen and have enjoyed some on the field success in recent years. Last season they finished 7th in the league, but won the Danish Cup for the first time, beating FC Midtjylland in extra time 2-0. The win took them into Europe for the second time in three seasons, although a tough draw against Sporting Lisbon was never going to be anything more than a win for the Portuguese side.
One example of their youth talent comes in the form of a famous surname. Laudrup. You cannot have any discussion about football in Denmark without that name cropping up somewhere, such is the high regard Finn, his sons Michael and Brian and now Michael’s sons Andreas and Mads have. Andreas has had a unenvious development in his footballing career, playing for Real Madrid Juvenil before heading back to Denmark for a spell with Lyngby, before settling into the first team at FCN.
Visitors Odense Boldklub had for so long been considered potential rivals to FCK. Two consecutive second places, set on a solid defence marshalled by ex-Manchester United and West Ham keeper Roy Carroll and the goals of Peter Utaka had many commentators suggesting this season would be their opportunity to step up, but a 5-0 defeat at Parken against FCK a few weeks ago suggested otherwise.
A short S-Tog trip out of town and I arrived in the sleepy suburbs. And sleepy is an appropriate word as I had to wake up the sole taxi driver on the rank to take me to the ground. “Is there a game on tonight then?” he asked as we drove towards the massive floodlights, firmly switched on. As I said, sleepy.
FC Nordsjaelland 1 OB 4 – Farum Park – Monday 1st November 2010
Gutted – no Roy Carroll in the starting line up meant no opportunity to ask him about “THAT” goal at the weekend, and what a member of the goalkeepers union says about it. And of course, what he remembered about the last time Clattenburg officiated a Man Utd v Spurs game which was the match where he made the miraculous save in the last minute from Pedor Mendez. On second thoughts perhaps it’s better he is absent.
I collected my pass and headed off into the press area needing a pee. Now not saying that the toilets are flash in Farum Park but they had a power shower and a microwave. Based on the property prices out here I am sure they can rent that out for a good few hundred a week. I also collected my free sausage voucher. I hesitated for a second, remembering Slovakia and the 15 pounds I have lost since, but who was ever hurt by a Danish sausage – well apart from that Brondby fan last season who nearly lost an eye.
FCN kicked off and started the brighter. Laudrup was on the bench, but that didn’t stop me using the zoom on the camera to try and find Michael in the stand opposite. Two minutes in and Pierre Thomas Robin Bengtsson to give him his full name (shirt printing from £50) wriggled into the box but Hansen was quick off his line to smother the danger.
Five minutes on the clock, OB break and the ball is played wide to Johan Absalonsen for his first touch of the game. He advanced unmarked into the penalty and “BANG” he fires the ball across Jesper Hensen in the FCN goal and into the net for an opening goal for OB with their first attack. How is your luck.
Twelve minutes gone and Peter Utaka cuts inside, slips the ball to Kalilou Traoré (no relation to Djimi although I am sure that wont stop Houllier putting a bid in for him soon) and he smacks the ball home from the edge of the box. Two nil and still they have only got the ball in the home penalty area once!
Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you..and would you know it two became three on the half an hour. Long OB throw in, cleared as far as the edge of the area and another top strike, this time from full back Espen Ruud beat the FCN Hansen (both keepers have the same surname see) all ends up. Now if this was Upton Park, the West Ham fans would be leaving in their droves throwing last season’s season ticket cards onto the pitch in mock disgust, but this is Denmark and such shows of emotion are not allowed. Instead the FCN fans just beat the drum a bit louder (not too loud to disturb the neighbours though), singing the Danish equivalent of “4-3, we’re gonna win 4-3″.
Nordsjaelland’s coach, Morten Wieghorst, once of course of Celtic, sent his team out nearly 10 minutes early to dodge the automatic sprinklers and the cold shower must have done them good as they started with purpose, and it was no surprise that they pulled a goal back just five minutes into the half when Andreas Bjelland got his head on a corner and found the back of the net.
To further help their cause the home side then threw on Michael Pankhurst, the US international and related to Emily no less to partner with Ghanian international Enoch Adu. Now it strikes me as a bit odd that anyone would name their child Enoch. After all I can only think of one Enoch, and he was hardly the most welcoming chap against the virtues of immigration was he? Perhaps they saw another side to Mr Powell that no one else did whilst he spoke about the “Rivers of Blood”…or perhaps they thought he was just being funny.
FC Nordsjaelland continue to press forward, confident that they may just sneak something from the game. OB brought on Albanian born Bashkim Kadrii, who it seemed had his own personal fan club in the stands. Kadrii is a hot property in Danish football despite only playing a few games for OB. He has already played for the national under20′s and apparently has attracted a few scouts from England to Denmark. Ironically enough, on the opposite subs bench was Bajram Fetai, another Dane of Albanian origins and famous for his “Grand Theft Auto” goal celebration.
FCN made their last change, seeing Tobias Mikkelsen come on, meaning no place this week for Anders Laudrup. If ever there was a game of two halves it was this one. Nordsjaelland battered the OB goal, but it was the away team who had the last laugh. Eric Djemba-Djemba, our man of the match started the move which was eventually finished off by Hans Henrik Andreasen to make the score 4-1.
Despite Stokholm’s freekick that clipped the bar in injury time it was never to be for the home side. The final scoreline may have been a bit flattering to OB but there was some impressive performances across the middle of midfield. Manchester United may have to have another look at Djemba-Djemba in light of their frailties this season.
I headed off across the pitch, quite literally, for the press conference and a chance to practice my Danish. Of course, just when I had prepared my question time and time again they did the whole thing in English! Sådan er livet.
More pictures from the evening can be found at our Flick stream here.