DAVID SMITH - Monday, August 22, 2011
Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek fought back to extend their unbeaten run to five games while Josh Gatt was in the defense for Molde as they stretched their lead atop the Tippeligaen standings.
Stabaek IF 1 - 1 Brann Bergen
Mikkel Diskerud was in Stabaek's midfield on the attack on Sunday, as a second-half penalty call on their hosts Brann Bergen allowed them to fight back to maintain their recent undefeated record.
Coming into Sunday's contest, Stabaek were flying high, with four consecutive wins to their names and momentum clearly on their side.
While Brann were also undefeated over their last four, their previous league game against Strømsgodset had ended in a draw, and they needed penalties to finally see off Viking Stavanger one week before in Norwegian Cup play.
The opening goal by Brann in the 36th minute came seemingly out of nowhere, when keeper Piotr Leciejewski launched a long goal kick into Stabaek's half of the field. Defender Morten M. Skjønsberg made a mess of his attempt to control it, allowing Brann attacker Kim Ojo to steal the ball and thank his opponent for the free gift by putting his shot past keeper Jon Knudsen for 1-0.
Even with the setback, Stabaek remained in control for much of the remainder of the game, although with much less than they would have preferred to show for their efforts in the end.
It took a 62nd minute handball call in the area on Brann defender Diego Guastavino to open the door for an equalizer to the visitors.
Johan Andersson coolly took the resulting spot kick, slotting his shot to the lower left corner of goal, beyond the reach of the lunging Brann keeper.
Stabaek were enlivened following the goal and pushed even harder for a winner, but both teams eventually ran out of gas, with a quiet final 15 minutes finally stopped by the referee's whistle to confirm the draw.
Stabaek remain fourth, still one point behind Brann in the second of the league's two Europa League qualification spots with 11 games left to play.
They next have a trip to relegation-threatened Viking Stavanger on Sunday.
Molde FK 1 - 0 Lillestrøm SK
Josh Gatt earned the start in the right side of Molde's defense on Monday evening, playing the first 57 minutes of the game as they were able to take a tight win over Lillestrøm SK at home.
Molde backup defender Sean Cunningham was in uniform but not selected to take the field for the hosts.
The game represented a huge opportunity for Molde to knock off their closest challengers, and they were up to the task even if they had to fight hard for the result.
Perhaps more used to his recent starting role in a more advanced wing position, Gatt often had a difficult time in the defense, early on making a pair of poor passes in the 12th minute which nearly opened the door for the Lillestrøm attack to jump ahead.
It was the hosts that were first on the board with what would turn out to be the game's only score, when a series of short passes by Molde in the attacking half ended when El-Hadji Makhtar Thioune dropped the ball back to Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who hit a beaut of a shot from 22 yards out for a 29th-minute lead.
Gatt was pulled in favor of more experienced defender Magne Simonsen three minutes before the hour mark as Lillestrøm gained more momentum in their push for an equalizer.
The substitution seemed to pay off, as the Molde defense continually stifled their chances before much they crossed into the realm of danger, ultimately taking the full three points.
With Brann only being able to draw in their weekend game against Stabaek, Molde now have a six-point advantage on top of the standings with two-thirds of the season now played.
They visit Aalesunds FK on Sunday evening, hoping to take advantage of a team which will surely be exhausted from their Europa League trip to Holland.
Hønefoss BK 2 - 1 Ranheim IL
Steve Clark was his usual self in the Hønefoss goal in Monday-night Adeccoligaen action, helping his team's defense hold out while their attackers got sorted for a second half charge in the team's win over promotion rivals Ranheim IL.
Hønefoss stood to make a major move to one of the division's two automatic promotion spots with a win on Monday night, as it would place them in third place and trailing their second-place opponents by only one points.
Hønefoss Norwegian-American forward Kenneth Di Vita Jensen was not called upon to take the field for the hosts.
The importance of the game was clearly not lost on either team, as they battled hard to prevent the other from gaining any advantage throughout a scoreless opening half.
Hønefoss coach Leif Gunnar Smerud sensed his team needed a push at the half, and brought on veteran midfielder, and the team responded almost immediately.
They were in the lead four minutes after the intermission as Rune Bolseth struck a 33-yard free kick which was in perfect position for Frode Lafton to head in for 1-0.
They doubled their advantage on the hour mark in somewhat fortunate circumstances. Lafton and Remond Macougne Mendy were through on the attack, and Mendy's shot from well outside of the box was poorly controlled by Ranheim keeper Andreas Lindberg, deflected over him and into the goal.
Ranheim did manage to pull one back in the 89th minute as a cross by Eirik Malmo went over the sleeping defense to the far post where Nicholas Lyngmo was waiting to head it in.
This was too little, too late, as they had no chance to score another in the final seconds of the game, with Hønefoss happy to take all the points.
Clark and his teammates climb to third place with the win, and now trail Ranheim by a single point, with a now-realistic shot at claiming one of the two spots for automatic promotion.
They will hit the road on Sunday to visit struggling Alta IF.
Joe Bendik was on Sogndal's bench as backup keeper for their 2-0 win at home over IK Start on Sunday.
Kyle Helton saw garbage minutes on Sunday, entering Mjøndalen's 3-1 win over Randaberg in the 89th minute.
Colin Burns was on the bench for Sandefjord on Sunday for their 2-1 home loss to FK Bodø/Glimt.
Jonathan Borrajo and Ham-Kam have the weekend off from scheduled league play, and will next take the field on Sunday, Aug. 28 with a trip to current second place team Ranheim IL.