DAVID SMITH - Friday, May 7, 2010
It was a rough set of midweek action for Americans in Denmark, as Benny Feilhaber and Aarhus dropped back into the relegation zone while Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland came up empty in Odense.
AGF Aarhus 1 - 2 SønderjyskE
Benny Feilhaber worked the left side of Aarhus' midfield for the first 79 minutes against SønderjyskE on Thursday evening, however was forced to watch helpless from the sidelines as their visitors netted the winning goal in the final minutes to drop his team back down into the relegation zone.
A vital road win over the weekend gave Aarhus a lifeline at just the right time, however a followup performance at home was needed against their fellow relegation strugglers SønderjyskE in order to keep them on safe ground.
With Randers having posted an easy win over Aalborg the night before, pressure was on Feilhaber and his teammates to earn a win or fall back down into the drop zone.
While neither team looked able to grab ahold of the game during a largely lifeless first half, they jumped out to the lead three minutes after the break thanks to the talismanic front man Peter Graulund.
An attempt by Caspar Sloth from the edge of the area was barely off target, but conveniently landed right in front of Graulund, who emphatically put the ball away for his second goal in his two games since returning from career-threatening injury.
Looking well on their way to securing safety, the team was unexpectedly dealt a huge blow in the 67th minute, when midfield star Jakob Poulsen erroneously knocked the ball into his team's own net on a free kick, bringing SønderjyskE back into the game.
With desperation beginning to set in, the Aarhus attack was unable to make make any headway towards their opponents' goal even with the 79th insertion of forward Dioh Williams up front in place of Feilhaber, and their fate was finally sealed with two minutes in regulation.
A free kick by Andrei Sidorenkov was poorly defended in the box, leaving Icelandic international Ólafur Ingi Skúlason completely free to head the visitors into the win column.
The result leaves Aarhus' hopes for surviving the season hanging by a thread, as they now are two point below the surface with only two games left in the season and will have to depend on either Randers or SønderjyskE to slip up combined with positive results from their end.
They visit Michael Parkhurst and FC Nordsjælland on Sunday afternoon in the first of two crucial games, needing a win to keep their season alive.
Odense BK 2 - 1 FC Nordsjælland
Michael Parkhurst went the distance for Nordsjælland as their undefeated streak finally ended on their trip to Odense on Thursday.
The team held dim hopes of pushing through a packed middle of the standings to reach a top-three finish, but were at an early disadvantage when Patrice Bernier had to be stretchered off the field after 30 minutes following a heavy tackle by Odense defender Jonas Troest.
They quickly made up for it thanks to a fine solo effort by Swedish youth international Pierre Bengtsson, who cut through three defenders from his left back position before firing a rocket past Odense keeper Roy Carroll for the 32nd-minute lead.
This only lasted for three minutes after Peter Utaka scored on his second of two rapid-fire close-range attempts set up by Njogu Demba-Nyrén to bring matters once again even.
The teams fought a fairly even battle afterward, but Odense was finally the one to break through, with Utaka netting his second of the evening thanks to a fine long pass from Henrik Hansen.
Odense maintained a fine defensive effort thereafter, keeping the Nordsjælland attack toothless until the final whistle, securing the league's silver medal with their win.
Nordsjælland remain seventh with the loss, however still have a chance to poke into the top half of the standings should they manage to pick up any wins over the final two league games.
They host Benny Feilhaber and Aarhus on Sunday, however will surely have one eye ahead to Thursday's Danish Cup final against Midtjylland.
Chris Rolfe and Marcus Tracy were both injured for Aalborg's 3-1 road loss to Randers on Wednesday night.