DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Michael Parkhurst helped Nordsjælland's defense to a convincing shut-out victory over Midtjylland while Marcus Tracy was unable to help Aalborg turn the tide in SønderjyskE as the Danish season enters its winter break.
AGF Aarhus 1 - 1 Esbjerg fB
Benny Feilhaber played the full 90 minutes in Aarhus' midfield as the team blew an early lead and were forced to settle for a point against visiting Esbjerg on Monday night, as Jeremiah White watched from the stands.
The hosts almost took the lead after less than four minutes when Georgian international Davit Devdariani sharply directed a header goalwards following a corner, but Esbjerg keeper Lars Winde kept the game scoreless with a reflex deflection to safety.
Feilhaber was involved in the buildup to the team's opening goal ten minutes later, lobbing a long pass from midfield to Frederik Krabbe on the right wing, which the young defender fired into the area in perfect placement for Dioh Williams to connect with his powerful header for the lead.
The hosts pushed to take their lead to two, but suffered a setback four minutes from the halftime whistle when early substitute Jesper Lange beat the offside trap, running onto a pass from Tim Janssen and sending it past Steffen Rassmussen to even the account.
The second half settled considerably with both teams lacking the initiative to pull themselves back into the lead. The visitors were, however, given a golden opportunity with 17 minutes left before the final whistle when Aarhus defender Alexander Jackson Møller was questionably shown his second yellow after the referee judged him to have unfairly held up Esbjerg's Lange, giving them a man-advantage for a final push.
The outnumbered hosts nevertheless held strong defensively, quelling any threats from their opponents to eventually hang onto the point.
The tie keeps Aarhus in sixth place on 27 points, still within a manageable six points of the European places awaiting the top three league finishers as they begin their three-month break.
They get back to action in early-March with a tough visit to second-place Copenhagen.
SønderjyskE 2 - 0 Aalborg BK
Marcus Tracy played the first 77 minutes for Aalborg on Saturday, but was unable to help them avoid their third successive game without a win as they were shut out by SønderjyskE.
The visitors generally dominated possession throughout the first half, but were unable to put the ball into the net when it counted, with Tracy unable to reach a dangerous pass from Andreas Johansson in the fifth minute, and then firing wide of target two minutes before the half after being set up by teammate Rasmus Würtz.
They were made to rue their inability to exploit the advantage in first-half injury time when SønderjyskE's Rasmus Hansen beat Aalborg keeper Karim Zaza with a long volley from outside the box, giving the hosts the shock lead heading into the break.
The second half continued as the first, with Aalborg maintaining control but finding themselves prone to the occasional counter-attack situation from their opponents.
Tracy made way for teammate Henrik Dalsgaard in the 77th minute as coach Magnus Pehrsson had his team push further upfield in an effort to tie, but their pressure opened the door for their opponents, with Søren Frederiksen finally locking up the win for the hosts with his solo effort with three minutes remaining.
The loss leaves Aalborg in the bottom half of the standings in seventh place, giving the team three months to contemplate their sputtering finish to the fall before resuming play in March against Nordsjælland.
FC Nordsjælland 3 - 0 FC Midtjylland
Michael Parkhurst once again went the distance at right back for Nordsjælland on Sunday as they jumped to eighth place in the league with a commanding win over Midtjylland.
Looking to rebound from the previous weekend's late loss to Silkeborg, the hosts took the lead after 19 minutes when Wolves keeper Martin Raska could only manage to deflect a volleyed shot from Nicki Bille Nielsen, with the rebound falling to team captain Nicolai Stokholm to poke just inside the right post.
Parkhurst nearly set up Nielsen for his own score shortly before the break with a cross from the right side, but the young striker's header flew wide of goal keeping the game tight into the half.
The Danish youth international did eventually find the net seven minutes after the break. Andreas Laudrup dribbled to the top-right edge of Midtjylland's penalty area and found Nielsen with a short perfectly-weighted pass into the box, which the 21 year-old adeptly took and shot just inside the far corner after executing a fine spin-move to first get around defender Martin Albrechtsen.
Danny Califf did not suit up for Midtjylland.
The win was firmly secured in the 65th minute with Rawez Lawan rising high to head in a short pass from Nielsen, giving the home their first home win in nearly four months.
The victory leaves the Wild Tigers in eighth place as they head into the long winter break. Their next contest will be in early-March when they take on Aalborg, who they now only trail in the standings by two points.