Previously on Damallsvenskan
Almost at half-time, with the 10th round played last weekend, the somewhat uneven table looks like this:
It will be as unbalanced as this for a long time - I think until mid September, when Umeå plays Malmö at home, a match from round 4. But in spite of this, the current table shows strengths and weaknesses pretty well.
The three top sides are the expected three top sides, but maybe not in the expected order.
Linköping benefits from a strong defense, with Sara Larsson/Lotta Rohlin in the centre and Hedvig Lindahl behind them, all Swedish national team players, but has so far not been able to get the really good score-lines. Brazilian signing Daniela has been immensely useful as the creative force behind the forwards. Their weakness in goal-scoring might be changing though, as Josefine Öqvist has recently been getting into great shape and being productive. The other Brazilian, Cristiane, has not been as successful as her compatriote. Not bad in any way, but not as prolific as expected with only three goals so far and being subbed out around the 60 minute mark a little bit too often. Still, defeating Umeå away is no small deed, and Josefine Öqvist last second solo performance to score the winner might be deciding for the outcome of the championship.
LDB FC Malmö started well with six straight wins, most of them with impressing scorelines. But this was mostly against the bottomfeeders. They stumbled against Djurgården, drawing in spite of home advantage and being one player up most of the match. Their sudden lack of efficiency in front of goal continued when Örebro was able to shut them out in another draw. Malmö is still playing with reserve Stephanie Öhrström in goal, but Caroline Jönsson is looking good in training and will probably take over in goal within short. Dutch striker Manon Melis is scoring a lot and their only big new name, Czech Pavlina Scasna, is looking good in spite of not being fully recovered from her knee injury. Malmö fans that wanted the club to use their new money on a Brazilian star (the club opted to use the money to improve conditions for the players already on the team instead) are probably looking in Linköping's direction with some envy.
Third place Umeå IK has lost points in both their last two matches. To Djurgården, as all the top sides has, but more importantly also to Linköping. Coach Jeglertz has been sounding off against those of his players he doesn't think are fully committed. Defense seems to have been a sometimes weak side of the team. The club hasn't signed a top defender since Karolina Westberg and exclusively relying on developing own talents for the defense maybe isn't enough. The new signing Yamaguchi has got a lot of time on the field, in spite of having mostly defensive duties in midfield, unlike in college where she was the goal-scorer of her team. Danish winger/attacker Rasmussen has also proven her worth as has returning Frida Östberg. But I think we're more looking at an opposition that is getting better than Umeå being worse than last year.
Göteborg had a horrible start, losing four straight matches. But, as coach Torbjörn Nilsson pointed out already then, it was the presumed top four they played. Since then, they have six straight wins and actually has contact with the top four. And they are scoring goals, the 9-0 goalfest against Umeå Södra topping the list, in spite of Lotta Schelin being on the injury list since the Malmö match in April. Sara Lindén has stepped out of Schelin's shadow and is right now leading the goalscorer list with 9 goals before players like Marta and Lisa de Vanna. Göteborg also depends a lot on Norwegian midfielder Ingvild Stensland, who has made a string of stellar performances as the creative centre in Göteborg. She is also leading the assist league.
Last year AIK had a pretty accomplished, defensively strong side that couldn't score for the love of God. That almost got them relegated. This year the big-spending club has found the answer to their scoring problems. Not just Lisa de Vanna, who scored in five straight games, but also midfielders Anne Mäkinen and Elin Ekblom, who both have a lot of responsibility in the build-up of AIK's attacks. They don't seem really ready for the next step yet, but a finish just behind the three big ones?
We have seen Djurgården at sixth place before, but in those cases they recovered before the season finished. This time, maybe not. Coach Anders Johansson has repeatedly stressed that the team is in transition and he is hoping for a 4-6 place finish. It didn't start well, losing to newcomers Kristianstad and to Hammarby, but then they defeated Göteborg and has now tied all the three big ones. And with consecutive better performances. In the nil-nil against Linköping, they were reportedly out-played but saved by Nadine Angerer, in the 1-1 against Malmö (with Victoria Svensson back from injury) they packed the team in defense and relied on Linda Sällström's speed up front to gain a 1-1 while they seemed Umeå's equal in the 2-2 home draw. Angerer and Hingst has been great lately and Svensson seems to be in good form, particularly when you consider her large defensive responsibilities.
Hammarby also lost several key players and had a rough start, conceding 13 goals in the two matches against Umeå and Malmö. But then keeper Kathrin Lehmann returned from her ice-hockey playing duties and brought some stability to the team. But just some. Defeating Djurgården 3-0 has been followed by hard earned wins over Bälinge and a draw against Umeå Södra. One of the bright spots in their somewhat erratic season start has been former AIK attacker Nazanin Vaseghpanah, who finally starts to score in Damallsvenskan.
Kif Örebro seems a bit lost in nowhere. They have had good performances defeating Djurgården and holding Malmö to a draw but are capable to losing to just about anyone on the road. Defense works fine with national team goalie Kristin Hammarström and Stina Segerström and Sanna Valkonen in defense. Up front it's worse. Last year's wonder kid Emilia Erixon hurt her knee again and hasn't really been replaced by Leena Puranen.
Kristianstad started with what we thought was the upset of the year, defeating last year's runners-up Djurgården, but now we know it wasn't as big as we thought. They are still strong at home, almost shutting out Malmö in a 0-1 defeat while defeating Sunnanå and Bälinge. But they had some really disappointing performances on the road and overhauled their starting eleven after a humiliating 1-3 at home against Hammarby. They have made two good matches since with imports McNeall and Dieke in defense and are at present looking good for avoiding relegation.
Umeå Södra also had a chock opening, defeating last season's number 5 Sunnanå, but it has been harder since then. They have suffered really big defeats to Umeå (5-0) and Göteborg (9-0) and have a really hard time trying to shut out just about any team. Even Bälinge has scored against them. The team is overall fairly weak, but their American forward Jennifer Nobis can be impressive in attack, but fairly seldom gets anything to work with.
Last year's surprise team Sunnanå had high hopes for this season, but losing their two Swedish internationals, Hanna Marklund (motherhood) and Maria Nordbrant (Örebro) has hurt them and Mirjam Marklund's recent injury will not help. The last two defeats, Hammarby away and Göteborg at home, put them under the relegation line. The last three matches before the break for the Olympics against Umeå Södra, Kristianstad and Bälinge will probably decide their future.
Already before the season Bälinge talked about surviving in Damallsvenskan as their goal. Their key players went to other clubs and they were left with mostly a team of teenagers. Some of them among Sweden's most promising, but still. The survival should be secured by American reinforcements. One of these, Joanna Lohmann, was lost almost before she arrived, suffering from a back injury. But Natalie Spilger has impressed in defense with skill and determination, as has keeper Veronica Svensson. Still, with no wins and only three draws over nine matches, survival seems hard to reach.
Do you really want to know the lineups and play-by-play for all the games the last month and a half?? Seriously? Ok, then you really have to go to svenskfotboll.se, I'm in no mood trying to write all that here.
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