RECAP: WEEKEND FINNISH ACTION
American midfielder Daniel Antunez started his first game in over a month for Inter Turku in the club's impressive 3-0 win over VPS while Mariehamn's American trio dropped a crucial one versus Haka.
VPS 0 – 3 Inter Turku
Daniel Antunez started and played 88 minutes for Inter Turku in his return to the starting lineup to help the club earn three valuable points on the road in the Veikkausliiga.
American defender Greg Eckhardt was not in the 18 for VPS.
Inter struck first in the 39th minute when VPS keeper Jung-Hyuk Kwom was unable to hang onto a long-distance shot from Inter midfielder Joni Kauko and the rebound fell right in front of Henri Lehtonen who was easily able to tap it home from close range.
In the second half, Inter would add to their lead in the 54th minute when Mika Ojala converted a penalty after Lehtonen was brought down in the box.
Six minutes later, Inter would score yet again and put the game out of reach when Lehtonen would add a second goal to his fantastic game when he would hammer home a Severi Paajanen pass from about seven yards out into the top of the net.
Lehtonen would have a chance for a hat-trick when Inter were awarded another penalty but he would have his shot was saved by Kwom.
The win was very valuable for Inter as they are far more secure in their move way from relegation. They now sit securely in sixth place with 31 points and are seven points clear of 13th place and a forced relegation playoff.
Just as the news was good for Inter, it was a very significant blow for VPS who now sit in 10th place and only two points clear of the 13th place relegation playoff.
Inter next play this Wednesday, September 22 when they visit the nation's capital to play league leaders HJK Helsinki.
VPS do not have a game until Monday September, 27th when they face a crucial match on the road against last place FC Lahti.
Haka 2 - 1 IFK Mariehamn
Giuseppe Funicello, Mason Trafford, and Lamar Neagle all saw action for IFK Mariehamn but the club suffered a road loss in a game that had significant relegation implications for both teams.
Funicello and Trafford were both in the starting lineup in Mariehamn's backline and played a full 90 while Neagle entered the game in the midfield as a substitute in the 65th minute. It was Neagle's first appearance for Marieham.
FC Haka played the game without their head coach Sami Ristilä who chose to remain with his hospitalized wife.
Mikko Innanen opened the scoring for hosts in the 16th minute when he would connect from close range off a pass from Toni Lehtinen.
In the second half, the hosts would add to their lead when Lehtinen would convert a penalty after Jaakko Juuti was brought down in the box but Mariehamn's Croatian defender Mate Dujilo.
Mariehamn would pull one back in injury time when Hungarian defender Tamas Gruborovics would convert a penalty. Haka's keeper Saku Pesonen was able to get his hands on Gruborovics' shot but was unable to keep the ball out of the net.
With only four rounds left in the season, the bottom half of the Veikkausliiga table remains extremely tight as only four points separate 13th place from 7th in the 14 team league.
With last place FC Lahti firmly set as the league's automaticly relegated team, the remaining teams will look to avoid the 13th place position which is subject to a relegation playoff series.
FC Haka's win moves them from 13th to ninth place and three points clear of the relegation playoff. Their next match is on Monday, September 27th against KuPS on the road.
Mariehamn, on the other hand, now sit in 12th place with only goal differential setting them apart from 13th place JJK.
Both Mariehamn and JJK will face each other in Mariehamn next Monday, September 27th in perhaps the biggest relegation match of the season so far in the Veikkausliiga.