Molde “roses” above the rest in Eliteserien

Soccer sensation

Photo: Rodrigo Freitas / NTB
Molde captain Magnus Wolff Eikrem leads his championship-scarved teammates in victory cheers after winning the league title against Lillestrøm.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

A tie would have done it, but, of course, a win is more exciting if you’re going to clinch a championship. Molde couldn’t have waited much longer to get the win. In the sixth minute of stoppage time in the second half, Etzaz Hussain poked one home to give Molde a 1-0 victory over host Lillestrøm on Oct. 16. It enabled the team from the City of Roses to clinch the Eliteserien championship with four games left, breaking the two-year reign of Bodø/Glimt.

It was Molde’s 13th straight victory since mid-July–breaking the previous record of 11 set by Lillestrøm in 1986–and improved its record to 21 wins-3 draws-2 losses for 66 points and 61-21 goals advantage. They will fall short of B/G’s single season point record of 81 in 2020.

It was the team from Romdal’s first title since 2019, fifth overall, all since 2011 (2011, 2012, 2014 and 2019).

“We played very well today,” Hussain, who scored his second goal of the season, said to Discovery. “I was served a brilliant pass, so then it was just a matter of putting it in.”

Bodø/Glimt wasn’t going quietly. It tried to score as many goals as possible to cut into Molde’s goal differential advantage, the tie-breaker. Behind two goals from Amahl Pellegrino–who led the league with 23 goals–B/G routed Vålerenga 6-0. The week before, the yellow shirts beat Sandefjord 4-1 on two goals from Hugo Vetlesen and a goal and an assist from Pellegrino. On Oct. 9, Molde handled Ham-Kam 5-0 behind two goals from Magnus Wolff Eikrem and four goals in the first 39 minutes. Bodø/Glimt cut into the goal margin 70-32, but it was the 15-point difference that was too difficult to overcome.

The Northerners realized the better team had won.

“It was a very good season by Molde, a bit understated,” said Bodø/Glimt player Patrick Berg to VG. “From the summer onward, they were absolutely superb.”

“We just applaud them and it’s an inspiration for us,” said Glimt coach Kjetil Knutsen. “We probably inspired them a little too, but all credit and praise to them.”

The championship gave Molde a double as they beat Bodø/Glimt 1-0 in May for the Norway Cup.

Added TV soccer analyst Yaw Ihle Amankwah: “This is one of the strongest Molde seasons in history. They have had many good seasons in recent times. They are the reigning cup champions and are doing well in Europe despite a season full of injuries.”

Visiting Molde fans set off flares at the game’s conclusion. Players celebrated with their supporters, shouted, grinned, waved the championship scarves.

“It feels fantastic. Look at the players,” said David Fofana, who led Molde with 10 goals.

“Incredibly great to be a part of. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had,” said Emil Breivik. “We are a fantastic team with many good individual players.”

Manager Erling Moe was emotional.

“This is one of the biggest things you can be a part of,” he said to Discovery. “We have been through tough periods. There is a backbone in this team. We never let ourselves down.”

Molde didn’t have to think about trying to clinch against archrival Rosenborg on Oct. 23. A war of words has developed.

In the excitement, Molde captain Eikrem, whose partner died a few weeks ago after a long illness, said, “We have known for a long time that we had one hand on the trophy, but now we have two. Now we will celebrate well. Now I’m looking forward to Rosenborg standing guard on Sunday.”

There’s a tradition of respect for a new champion. The other teams “stand guard.” Rosenborg wrote on its website that the team would not participate.

“The guard of honor is intended as an act of respect for the newly crowned series champion. We feel that Molde is more concerned with inflicting humiliation on Rosenborg than getting deserved respect. Under no circumstances will we agree to that. Rosenborg congratulates Molde…on a well-deserved league championship. We are looking forward to a wonderful game on the pitch…”

Retorted Moe on Discovery: “It seems to them that they have become a Twitter club. They let Twitter decide what the club should do. It is strange and not the best way to make decisions.”

Moe added that he and his players “would have stood” if Rosenborg won the gold.

However, Vålerenga manager Dag-Eilev Fagermo calls the ceremony a “strange tradition.”

Toppserien

Toppserien women’s soccer decided to add a post-season playoff. The top four teams were put in a championship bracket to play home and away games against each other. The bottom six plus two teams from the 1st division played in a relegation bracket. Brann, as a reward for being the regular-season winner, received six bonus points to start; second-place Rosenborg four; third-place Vålerenga two, and fourth-place Stabæk 0. As of Oct. 15 with two games to go, the standings are 1. Brann (3-1-0-16); 2. Vålerenga (3-0-1-11); 3. Rosenborg (1-1-2-8); 4. Stabæk (0-0-4-0).

In an Oct. 18 statement, the board at Vålerenga said it wants the playoffs scrapped beginning next year. They and others have claimed the regular season has been rendered meaningless.

“We will work to ensure that this is adopted at the federal parliament in March next year,” writes Vålerenga.

However, the recently released schedule from the Norwegian Football Association includes playoffs. A task force is “investigating solutions to the league structure,” and Vålerenga emphasizes a playoff-less schedule must be considered.

“We believe it would be irresponsible not to take action in 2023, so that we get the full effect of a new model in 2024. Anything else could contribute to devaluing the product and create uncertainty about the way forward.

“A decision by the federal parliament in 2023 will also mean that we get started with further solutions to ensure enough matches and good matching, which Vålerenga Fotball is very concerned about.”

Avaldsnes and Brann have also expressed displeasure with the playoffs.

This article originally appeared in the November 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.