Land of the Midnight Sun: My Initial Delve into the Norwegian Eliteserien

Introduction

After having successfully written about the Danish Superliga and the Swedish Allsvenskan in previous discussion blogs, it made complete logical sense to complete the Scandinavian Triumvirate by next focusing on the Norwegian Eliteserien in this discussion blog. Not to mention it did finish in second place, behind Sweden, in the previous vote I put on Twitter a few weeks back!

So, prepare the longships, send out the ravens and lavishly pour some mead into a drinking horn…here is my initial raid into Norwegian league football! SKÅL!!!

 

History

Prior to the foundation of a national league competition, only regional leagues existed within Norway, with the only national competition being the Norwegian Cup. As a result of this, only the cup winners could be called as “Norwegian Champions”, which is something which still endures in today’s set-up.

It wouldn’t be until the 1937-38 season when the various regional leagues in Southern Norway were aligned into eight districts, with the eight regional league winners playing each other in a playoff to crown a national champion. This early national competition was called the Norgesserien (English: The League of Norway), with Fredrikstad being the first champions of the league. There were plans to merge the district leagues into a fully national competition, but because of the outbreak of World War II, this process was inevitably delayed.

Fredrikstad
The logo of Fredrikstad – the first league champions of Norway

In 1948, the Hovedserien (English: The Main League) was created, which consisted of the top 16 clubs from the district leagues. These teams were placed into two groups of eight, with the group winners playing a two-legged final to determine the overall league champion. This format existed until 1960-61, when it was decided to merge the two groups together into one truly national league, and to switch from the traditional autumn-spring schedule to the spring-autumn schedule by 1963. To make the change in schedule, the 1961-62 season was played over 15 months, and became known as the Maratonserien (English: The Marathon League).

With the Norwegian league now theoretically ‘national’, and playing their schedule within a calendar year, it was reduced from sixteen to ten teams, and renamed to 1.divisjon (English: 1st Division). However the league still wasn’t truly national as teams based in Northern Norway were still not allowed to gain promotion until 1972, when the league was expanded to 12 teams. Although they were now allowed promotion, northern clubs were subjected to stricter promotion rules than teams in the ‘south’. However in 1979, they were finally given the same rights as the rest of the country.

In 1990, the league given another change in name, this time adopting the unique Tippeligaen brand name, named after the main sponsor of the league, ‘Norsk Tipping’. The second division would subsequently inherit the old 1.divisjon name. The Tippeligaen was further expanded to 14 teams in 1995, before a further two teams were added to the league in 2009 to expand it to a sixteen-team league.

Tippeligaen Logo
One of the former Tippeligaen logos that was used during the sponsorship.

In 1992, the Tippeligaen became a fully professional league, which also saw the start of Trondheim-based side, Rosenborg’s domination of the Tippeligaen. They would win the next thirteen titles consecutively before finally being toppled by Vålerenga of Oslo in 2005. However Rosenborg continue to be Norway’s premier club, constantly challenging for the title and being Norway’s best supported team. Their haul of 26 league titles is vastly superior to every other club within Norwegian football.

In 2017, the league changed its name once again. In keeping with other football leagues in Europe and the rest of the world, they decided upon having no main sponsor for the league. Thus changing the league’s name to the non-sponsored branding of the Eliteserien.

 

Norwegian Football Pyramid

The current Norwegian national football pyramid structure (as administered by the Football Association of Norway or the NFF) is organised as 1-1-2-6. The Eliteserien is the highest level of the pyramid, with the 1.divisjon being the second tier. At the third tier of the Norwegian pyramid, the 2.divisjon has two groups (Group 1 and Group 2) of fourteen teams each, whilst the fourth tier 3.divisjon is comprised of six regional groups, each with fourteen teams in each group.

Tiers 5 to 9 (4.divisjon to the 8.divisjon) are regional divisions which are directly administered by the various regional football associations throughout Norway. These regional leagues most follow the county borders of the country.

 

Eliteserien Format

Eliteserien Logo

There are currently sixteen teams competing in the Eliteserien, with each team playing each other twice, both at home and away. As a result, all teams complete the regular season having played thirty league games each. These games are usually played between March and November (the summer schedule), with the majority of league games played on a Sunday during a gameweek round. However for the final two gameweek rounds of the season, all the games are played at the same time to avoid any unfair advantages for teams needing a certain result.

The 16th of May round of games are often referred as the “national day of football” within Norway, as they played a day before Norway’s Constitution Day, which is a national holiday. As a result, those games usually see higher attendance figures than other gameweeks.

The winners of the league are crowned Eliteserien champions, and qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Norway only has one Champions League berth due to their mid-table UEFA co-efficiency rating of 23rd (just behind the Swedish Allsvenskan), and so the champions are the only ones who advance into the Champions League. The winners start their UCL campaign in the first qualifying round.

Both the runners-up and third placed teams also qualify for European competition, although they both qualify for the Europa League. Both sides will start at the first qualifying round of the competition. An Europa League spot is also reserved for the winner of the Norwegian Cup. However should the national cup be won by a team who have already qualified for Europe via their league standing, then the fourth placed side can also qualify for the first qualifying round of the Europa League, should this situation occur.

At the opposite end of the table, the bottom two teams in the Eliteserien at the end of the season are automatically relegated to the 1.divisjon (the second tier of Norwegian football). They are replaced by the 1.divisjon champions and the runners-up in the league.

In a similar format to the Swedish Allsvenskan, the fourteenth placed team has to play in a two-legged relegation/promotion play-off against a team from the 1.divisjon. However unlike Sweden, where the third placed team is automatically in the playoff match, in Norway, it is decided through one-legged playoffs between the teams who finish third to sixth in the 1.divisjon. The winners of these playoffs then earn the right to play against the Eliteserien team.

These playoff games are played at the end of the season (early December), and whichever team wins on aggregate over the two legs, earns the final spot in the next season’s Eliteserien.

Every Eliteserien club is allowed 25 players in their squad, with 2 of them having to have been trained by the club, or come through the academy, and 16 of them to be Norwegian or have trained in Norway for three years before their 21st birthday. Therefore each club is allowed a maximum of 9 foreigners in their squad, although there are no restrictions when it comes to the match day squad.

 

Former Norwegian Top-Flight Winners

Since the national league was created in 1937, there have been sixteen different clubs who have won the Norwegian top-flight league:

  • Rosenborg – 26 titles
  • Fredrikstad – 9 titles
  • Viking – 8 titles
  • Lillestrøm, Vålerenga – 5 titles each
  • Brann, Larvik Turn, Molde – 3 titles each
  • Lyn, Start, Strømsgodset – 2 titles each
  • Fram Larvik, Freidig, Moss, Skeid, Stabæk – 1 title each

As you can see from the above statistic, Rosenborg have been the dominant power in Norwegian football, having won 17 more titles than the second best side, Fredrikstad. The Trondheim-based club won their first league title in 1967, and won three titles in five years. They would have to wait another fourteen years to claim their fourth title in 1985. However since 1985, they have been relentless in their quest for winning league titles. Between 1985 and 2018, they have won 23 titles from 34 seasons, including an historic 13 consecutive league titles between 1992 and 2004. They are also the only side to have completed a league campaign undefeated, when they achieved the ‘Invincibles’ task in 2010.

Fredrikstad were the original force in Norwegian football, having won the first two Norgesserien in 1938 and 1939, as well as claiming four of the first six Hovedserien between 1949 and 1954. Fredrikstad won their ninth and final (to date) top flight title in the 1960-61 season (six years before Rosenborg won their first league title). Larvik Turn won their three titles within four years between 1953 and 1956, whilst Viking clinched half of their tally of titles between 1972 and 1975 and haven’t won the title since 1991.

The last time a side had won the league for the first time was when Molde won their first title in 2011. They won it again in 2012 and 2014, whilst Strømsgodset clinched their second title in 2013 – 43 years after they had lifted their first league trophy!

 

 

Selected Eliteserien Clubs

ROSENBORG BK

Rosenborg

  • Stadium: Lerkendal Stadion, Trondheim
  • Nickname: Troillongan (English: The Troll Children); RBK
  • Colours: All white kit with black trim

The Trondheim side of Rosenborg Ballklub are Norway’s most successful side, having won the Norwegian top flight on a record 22 occasions, the Norwegian Cup a joint-record amount of 12 times, and have played more European competition games than any other Norwegian team. They play at the Lerkendal Stadion, which is the biggest stadium within the Eliteserien with a capacity of 21,421.

Originally called Sportsklubben Odd, in homage to Odd of Skien, Rosenborg started as a lower division team for the early part of their history. However it wouldn’t be until their move to the district of Lerkendal (3 kilometres south of Trondheim city centre) in 1957 that their fortunes started to improve. Rosenborg won their first major trophy in 1960, curiously beating Odd in the final of the Norwegian Cup, before becoming Trondheim’s leading football club. In 1967 they were promoted to the top-flight and, with the exception of 1978, have remained there ever since.

RBK won their first league title in 1967, and won an additional two in 1969 and 1971. However it would be from the middle of the 1980’s when the club would encounter their “golden era” and come to dominate Norwegian football. They clinched another three championships between 1985 and 1990, before winning an unprecedented thirteen consecutive titles between 1992 and 2004, with ten of them coming under the management of Nils Arne Eggen. During this period of success, they made regular appearances in the UEFA Champions League group stages, and even reached the quarter finals of Europe’s premier club competition in the 1996-97 campaign.

Since their dominant period throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, RBK have racked up a further seven titles in fourteen years (despite going through ten managers during the same period), and maintaining their position as “the team to beat” in Norway. Rosenborg are the current Eliteserien champions, having won the 2018 league by five points, and they have won the past four seasons in a row. They currently have former Arsenal striker, Nicklas Bendtner, within their playing ranks, and also have former Liverpool and Norway left-back, Stig Inge Bjørnebye, as their Sporting Director.

 

MOLDE FK

Molde

  • Stadium: Aker Stadion, Molde
  • Nickname: MFK
  • Colours: Blue shirt, white shorts and socks

Molde Fotballklubb represent the municipality of Molde, a settlement of around 27,000 inhabitants that is situated on the mid-western coast of Norway, within the county of Møre og Romsdal. They play at the 11,800 capacity, all-seater, Aker Stadion, which they moved into in 1998 after originally played in the Molde Stadion.

Having being founded in 1911 as International, Molde FK spent the majority of their early history playing in the lower divisions of the Norwegian football pyramid, bar one season in the Hovedserien in 1957-58. They got promoted to 1.divisjon in 1974, where they finished in second place, and since then have become one of general mainstays of the division, as well as one of Norway’s leading clubs.

Throughout Rosenborg’s domination of the Tippeligaen in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Molde were often their closest title challengers, finishing as runners-up four times during this period. As a result of their performances, a strong and competitive rivalry has developed between the two clubs throughout recent seasons, becoming the Norwegian equivalent of “El Classico“. Molde also have local rivalries against Møre og Romsdal neighbours, Aalesund and Kristiansund.

Molde finally won their first major honour in 1994 when they won the Norwegian Cup by beating Lyn 3-2 in the final. Certainly well deserved after having been finalists twice in the 1980’s, and losing the title on the last day of the 1987 season. They would pick up another cup in 2005 by beating Lillestrøm 4-2 after extra time, but the league title was still alluding them.

Under the management of former player, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Molde finally clinched their first league championship in 2011 in Solskjær’s first season as a manager. They became the fifteenth different side to win the Norwegian top-flight title. They would successfully defend their title in the following season to win their second league title in a row. Just like London Buses, having waiting so long for the first title, and two came along together. Solskjær would earn another trophy in his third season, by winning the Norwegian Cup in 2013 before moving to Cardiff City.

His replacement, Tor Ole Skullerud would continue Solskjær’s great work and surpass it when he achieved a league and cup double with Molde in 2014, by winning their third league title and fourth Norwegian Cup. Alas for Molde, those have been the last trophies they have since won, although last season they earned another silver medal (again under Solskjær’s management before he went to Manchester United) by clinching the runners-up spot on the last day of the season.

 

SK BRANN

Brann

  • Stadium: Brann Stadion, Bergen
  • Nickname: n/a
  • Colours: All red kit with black trim

Sportsklubben Brann are the biggest club from Norway’s second city, Bergen, and thus have a big following with loyal and extremely partisan support. They play in the 17,686 capacity Brann Stadion, which was built in 1919, where they achieved a record-breaking 17,310 average attendance in their title-winning 2007 season.

Brann were founded in 1908, and reached their first Norwegian Cup finals in 1917 and 1918, but lost both of them to Sarpsborg and Kvik respectively. They wouldn’t win their first cup until 1923, beating Lyn 2-1. It would be the first of their six cup victories, having won the cup most recently in 2004. They have also finished as finalists another nine times, with the last appearance in the final being in 2011. Because of their constant appearances in cup finals, it lead to a number of appearances in the defunct Cup Winners’ Cup, in which they reached the quarter-finals in the 1996-97 season.

Their glory years came in the 1960’s, when they had the legendary Roald Jensen and Rolf Birger Pedersen in their team. They won the monumental Maratonserien in 1961-62, as well as the consecutive season in 1963 (the first within a calendar year). Alas the 1970’s and 1980’s especially would be a tough time for the boys from Bergen, as they ‘yo-yoed’ between the divisions. So much so, they set a world record of consecutive relegations-promotions involving a top tier division, until they finally maintained their top tier position in 1987.

Despite their large support and public interest, Brann are considered to have under-performed throughout their history, despite their size. After a wait of 44 years, they finally lifted the league trophy when they won the 2007 Tippeligaen, although Stabæk pushed them very hard towards the end of the season. They still have to wait to win their fourth title although they did finish up as runners-up to Rosenborg in the 2016 season.

Last season, it started off brilliantly for Brann as they were the early league leaders for the first 12 weeks. Alas they were overtaken by the eventual winners, Rosenborg, in gameweek 13. They would ultimately finish in third after Molde grabbed the silver medal position on the last gameweek round of the season. It would seem Brann’s quest for their fourth title is never-ending…

 

VÅLERENGA FOTBALL

Vålerenga

  • Stadium: Intility Arena, Oslo
  • Nicknames: Enga, The Bohemians, St. Hallvard’s Men
  • Colours: Blue shirt with red trim, white shorts, red socks

Vålerenga Fotball are an Oslo-based side who play at the 16,555 capacity Intility Arena, which was opened in 2017. Although their ground is based in Valle-Hovin, the club (and parent sports club) are named after the neighbourhood of Vålerenga, the historical industrial east end of Oslo. Because the early teams would recruit players and supporters from the many factories in the area, Vålerenga developed a working-class identity and support. They have strong local rivalries against fellow Oslo-based sides Lillestrøm, Lyn and Skeid, as well as historical and competitive rivalries against Ham Kam, Kongsvinger and Brann.

Enga have won the Norwegian league on five occasions, with their first league championship arriving in 1965 under a talented and charismatic group of local players, who were nicknamed as Bohemene (The Bohemians). Sadly the Bohemene era ended three years later when they were relegated from the 1.divisjon. Their glory years came in the early 1980’s under the management of Leif Eriksen, when they won three league titles in four years between 1981 and 1985, as well as winning their first Norwegian Cup in 1980, and finishing as finalists in 1983 and 1985.

Sadly financial problems caused the club to slip down the table resulting in relegation in 1990 after 14 season in the top division. They would spend the 1990’s as a ‘yo-yo’ club, flitting between the top two tiers, although they did managed to win their second cup in 1997 by beating Strømsgodset 4-2 in Oslo. Thankfully for Enga fans, the new millennium was more successful for Vålerenga as they managed to win the cup once again in 2002, and claim their fifth league title in 2005 – 21 years after their fourth league triumph. Their last trophy was winning the 2008 Norwegian Cup, although they did manage to finish as runners-up in the 2010 Tippaligaen season.

Last season they finished in sixth position and their current manager is the former Celtic manager, Ronny Deila, who was appointed to the role in 2017.

 

ODDS BK

Odds BK

  • Stadium: Skagerak Arena, Skien
  • Nickname: Oddrane
  • Colours: White shirt with black trim, black shorts, white socks

Odds Ballklubb, commonly known as Odd, are based in the Telemark city of Skien in Southern Norway. Founded in 1894, they are the oldest football club in Norway, and part of the ‘Club of Pioneers’ (a group which includes all the oldest clubs from various countries). The Oddrane joint-hold the record of most Norwegian Cup victories with twelve wins, with their last cup win coming in 2000. Between 1994 and 2012, they were known as Odd Grenland, to reflect the historical region of Grenland that they are situated within.

Odd Grenland
Odd’s badge when they were known as “Odd Grenland”.

Originating from the older sports club, IF Odd, its unique name originates from Viktor Rydberg’s novel Seierssverdet, where one of the main characters was a Norwegian athlete called Orvar Odd.

As mentioned previously, they have won the Norwegian Cup twelve times and have been runners-up on another nine occasions. They won their first four cups back-to-back between 1903 and 1906, and by 1931 had clinched their eleventh cup triumph. In fact between 1902 and 1931, they appeared in sixteen Norwegian Cup finals and were one of the strongest sides in Norwegian football in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

However their fortunes would flail post-war and Odd would have to wait another 69 years before they won another cup, when Odd finally obtained the 2000 Norwegian Cup by beating Viking 2-1 after extra time. That historic cup win is still their last major piece of silverware won by the club. Although they were cup finalists in 2002 and 2014, losing to Vålerenga and Molde respectively. Alas for a club with such an illustrious cup history, they have yet to win the Norwegian top-flight league, having only achieved two runners-up finishes in the Hovedserien in the 1950’s. Last season, they finished in a respectable ninth position, and have been playing in the top flight for the past eleven years.

 

TROMSØ IL

Tromsø IL

  • Stadium: Alfheim Stadion, Tromsø
  • Nicknames: Gutan (English: The Boys); TIL
  • Colours: Red and white striped shirts, white shorts and socks

Tromsø Idrettslag is a club from Tromsø, a city situated in Northern Norway and 350 km north of the Arctic Circle. They are the most northern located club in the Eliteserien, and are in fact the most northern top-flight club in world football. They currently play at the 6,687 capacity Alfheim Stadion, which has an artificial turf pitch, and was opened in 1987.

The club was founded in 1920 and originally played in the local district leagues, and the Northern Norwegian Cup, as the northern based clubs were not allowed to enter the top-flight nor the Norwegian Cup at that time. Tromsø managed to win three Northern Norwegian Cups before northern teams were finally allowed into the full Norwegian Cup for the first time in 1963, and later allowed into the top-flight in 1972.

The club were eventually promoted to the top flight in 1986, meaning they had become only the third (and still the most recent) northern club to play in the top flight, after FK Mjølner and FK Bodø/Glimt. Despite their league campaign being very tough, and only surviving from relegation via the playoff, they did much better in the Norwegian Cup. They shocked the pundits by beating that season’s top-flight champions, Lillestrøm SK 4-1 in the final, to claim their very first Norwegian cup title.

Since they got promotion in 1986, Tromsø have played in every season in the top-flight bar 2002 and 2014, where they gained promotion back to the top flight after just a single season away. During that time, they have finished as runners-up on two occasions (most recently in 2011) but have yet to actually win the title. They also won a second cup in 1996, which earned them qualification for the 1997-98 Cup Winners’ Cup. There they famously beat English Premier League side, Chelsea, 3-2 in the first of the second round tie, among the falling snow at the Alfheim. Sadly they were turned over 1-7 in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, to exit the competition.

Last season Tromsø finished in tenth position, their best placing in the top flight since they gained promotion from the 1.divisjon in 2014. It was also their best league finish since they finished fourth in the 2012 season.

 

LILLESTRØM SK

Lillestrøm SK

  • Stadium: Åråsen Stadion, Lillestrøm
  • Nicknames: Kanarifugla (English: The Canaries); Fugla (English: The Birds)
  • Colours: All yellow kit with black trim

Lillestrøm Sportsklubb are based in the town of Lillestrøm, situated 18km north-east of Oslo, and play at the 12,250 capacity Åråsen Stadion. Lillestrøm is one of the most supported teams in Norway, and has the second biggest official fan-club in the country. During their long history, the Canaries have won the top-flight league on five occasions, and have won the Norwegian Cup six times. Their biggest rival is their near neighbours, the Oslo-based, Eliterserien side of Vålerenga, whilst they also have a competitive rivalry with Rosenborg. However their traditional, local and historic rivals since the club’s foundation has been Strømmen IF, who are currently competing in the 1.divisjon.

The club was founded in April 1917 but it wouldn’t be until the 1958-59 season when Lillestrøm would finally win their first league title. This was during their first strong period in the 1950’s when the club also achieved a runners-up spot the following season, and three final appearances in the Norwegian Cup.

Lillestrøm would be very successful throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s, when they won two back-to-back titles in 1976 and 1977, as well as adding a couple more in 1986 and 1989 (they haven’t won the title since then). They also achieved four runners-up spot during this period. It was during this “golden period” when the Fulga finally obtained a Norwegian Cup, winning their first in 1977 (to make it a double-winning season), and winning a further three cup and two additional final appearances, throughout the next ten years.

Recently with the rise of Rosenborg, Lillestrøm’s fortunes have dipped. As mentioned previously, they haven’t won the league since 1989 although they did finish runners-up to Rosenborg in 2001. Despite this, they have added a further couple of Norwegian Cups, winning it most recently in 2017 when they beat Sarpsborg 08 by a 3-2 scoreline. Last season they finished in 12th position once again – the third time in as many seasons they have concluded the season and ending up in that spot in the league.

 

VIKING FK

Viking Stavanger

  • Stadium: Viking Stadion, Stavanger
  • Nickname: De Mørkeblå (English: The Dark Blues)
  • Colours: Dark blue shirt with white trim, white shorts, dark blue socks

Viking Fotballklubb, Viking or Viking Stavanger is a club based in the port city of Stavanger, the third biggest city in Norway and located in the south-west corner of the country. The Dark Blues play in the 16,300 capacity Viking Stadion, which they moved into in May 2004, when they were under the management of a certain Roy Hodgson.

They were founded in 1899 and played mainly local games in their early years. They initially came into importance during the 1950’s when they won two Norwegian Cups and the 1957-58 league championship. However their most dominant period was in the 1970’s, when they were clearly the most superior team in Norwegian football. Viking won the top flight for four years consecutively between 1972 and 1975, as well as picking up a historic league and cup double in 1979. They would win the league in 1982 and 1991 to increase their league tally up to eight league championships, although they haven’t won the league since 1991. Their most recent major trophy came in 2001, when they won their fifth Norwegian Cup, beating rivals Bryne 3-0 in the final, although they did win the 1.divisjon title in 2018.

Viking have a number of rival clubs, due to its locality and for historical reasons. Their rivalries with Brann and Haugesund are known as the Vestlandsderbyet (English: The Western Norway derby), whilst the rivalry with Start is called the Sørvestlandsderbyet (English: The Southwestern Norway derby). They also have local rivalries with Sandnes Ulf and Bryne, who are all located in the same county of Rogaland. Of all the rivalries Viking has, Bryne is considered to be Viking’s biggest rival, although the last time they played each other in the league was 2003. However Bryne did knock them out of the cup in last season’s competition.

After having been relegated at the end of the 2017 season, Viking played the 2018 season in the 1.divisjon. Despite losing nine of their 30 league games, and under pressure from Mjøndalen and Aalesund, they managed to win the 1.divisjon title by a single point from Mjøndalen. They would just gain promotion by two points from Aalesund, to ensure their hiatus from the top tier of Norwegian football would last for just a single season. Local lad, Tommy Høiland would score 21 goals to help them towards the title.

 

 

2018 Season

Eliteserien

2018 Eliteserien Table
The 2018 Eliteserien final table. [IMAGE: Wikipedia]
  • Top Goalscorer: Franck Boli [Stabæk] – 17 goals
  • Top Assister: Gjermund Åsen [Tromsø] – 10 assists
  • Top Stopper: André Hansen [Rosenborg] – 12 clean sheets

The 2018 Eliteserien would see the defending champions, Rosenborg, win their fourth consecutive title, and their 26th top-flight title overall. However they had to work to regain their title, and certainly didn’t have it their own way. The defending champions had a horrendous start to the season by not earning a win in their first three games.

They eventually recovered to climb up to second in the table, but head coach Kåre Ingebrigtsen was still sacked in the middle of July, and replaced by interim coach, the Dutchman Rini Coolen. Under Coolen’s management, Rosenborg put together an impressive run of form, by taking the league lead in Gameweek 20, and eventually winning the Eliteserien with a league game remaining.

Molde, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær ‘at the wheel’, achieved an even more impressive last third of the season. They managed to win eight of their last nine league games of the season to claim the runners-up spot by one point from Brann. Brann were originally the league leaders, having had a mirrored season to Molde by winning eight of their first nine opening league fixtures, and would only lose their first match in Gameweek 15 (0-4 to Molde curiously). Sadly a struggling end to the season meant they fell out of the top two spots, but could console themselves with a Europa League spot.

As Rosenborg had completed the league-cup double by winning the Norwegian Cup 4-1 against Strømsgodset (which included a Lord’ Bendtner brace for Rosenborg), it meant that fourth place now had a European spot attached to it. There it would be Haugesund who would benefit from this situation as they finished a solid fourth position – five points behind Brann, but a comfortable seven points ahead of Kristiansund in fifth spot.

Sandefjord were the first side to suffer relegation from the Eliteserien, when they drew 1-1 against Sarpsborg 08 in their penultimate game of the season. A season which saw them go on a fifteen game winless run, and an eight game losing streak, was sadly only going to go one way. The other team to suffer automatic relegation was the promoted Start, who ended their Eliteserien tenure by losing to Haugesund 1-3 on the final day of the season, to confirm their relegation back to the 1.divisjon. They would be replaced in the 2019 Eliteserien by the 1.divisjon champions, Viking of Stavanger, and the runners-up in the second tier, Mjøndalen.

Also on the final day, Stabæk conceded a last minute equalizer against Strømsgodset which confirmed Strømsgodset’s position in the 2019 Eliteserien, but condemned Stabæk to the promotion/relegation playoff. There they played against Aalesund (who had beaten Nest-Sotra and Sogndal to reach the final), which saw them take a 1-0 lead after the first leg through a Børkeeiet goal in the first half. In the second leg, away at Aalesund, they were 0-1 down before Guèye’s own goal, nineteen minutes from time, ensured they hung on to grind out a draw. Ironic for Guèye considering he had scored all the goals to get Aalesund to the playoff final. With that draw, Stabæk guaranteed their Eliteserien position through a 2-1 aggregate scoreline victory.

 

European Competitions

In the European competitions, 2017 Eliteserien champions Rosenborg and third-placed side Sarpsborg 08 both managed to get to the group stage of the Europa League. Rosenborg originally qualified for the Champions League, but after being knocked out in the second qualifying round by Celtic, they made it to the group stage after being Cork City and North Macedonian side, Shkëndija in the qualifiers. In their group, they faced the RB sides of Salzburg and Leipzig, as well as Celtic once again. Sadly for the champions, they were in a very tough group, and only managed to earn one point from their six games to finish bottom of Group B.

2018-19 Europa League Group B
Rosenborg would only earn 1 point from a very difficult group in the Europa League group stages. [IMAGE: Wikipedia]
Sarpsborg 08 had qualified for the group stage after going through all four stages of the Europa League qualification process – an impressive feat! They defeated ÍBV (Iceland), St. Gallen (Switzerland), Rijeka (Croatia) and Maccabi Tel-Aviv to get to the group stage. There, they gave a good account of themselves in a group containing Genk, Malmö and Besiktas. Although they too finished bottom of their group, they managed to earn five points from their group games, and were not too far away from qualification for the last 32.

2018-19 Europa League Group I
Sarpsborg 08 gave a good account of themselves but still finished bottom of Group I. [IMAGE: Wikipedia]
As for the other qualifiers, Molde just missed out on the group stage by falling at the final hurdle of the playoff stage. After beating Glenavon (Northern Ireland), Laçi (Albania) and Hibernian (Scotland), they tightly lost to 2008 UEFA Cup winners, Zenit Saint Petersburg by a scoreline of 3-4 on aggregate. Whilst 2017 Norwegian Cup winners, Lillestrøm, played only one round of European games before being dumped out of the competition. Coming in at the second qualifying round, they were sadly hammered 1-6 by Austrian side, LASK Linz.

ROSENBORG BK

(all scores on aggregate)

  • Champs League 1QR: Valur (ISL) 3 – 2
  • Champs League 2QR: Celtic (SCO) 1 – 3
  • Europa League 3QR: Cork City (IRL) 5 – 0
  • Europa League Playoff: Shkëndija (MKD) 5 – 1
  • Europa League Groups: 4th in Group B

 

SARPSBORG 08

(all scores on aggregate)

  • Europa League 1QR: ÍBV (ISL) 6 – 0
  • Europa League 2QR: St. Gallen (SWI) 2 – 2 (won on away goals)
  • Europa League 3QR: Rijeka (CRO) 2 – 1
  • Europa League Playoff: Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR) 4 – 3
  • Europa League Groups: 4th in Group I

 

MOLDE FK

(all scores on aggregate)

  • Europa League 1QR: Glenavon (NIR) 6 – 3
  • Europa League 2QR: Laçi (ALB) 5 – 0
  • Europa League 3QR: Hibernian (SCO) 3 – 0
  • Europa League Playoff: Zenit Saint Petersburg 3 – 4

 

LILLESTRØM SK

(all scores on aggregate)

  • Europa League 2QR: LASK Linz (AUT) 1 – 6

 

 

2019 Season

2019 Eliteserien Table - 6th July 2019
The 2019 Eliteserien table at nearly half-way through the season (table from the 6th July 2019). [IMAGE: Official Eliteserien Website]
  • Top Goalscorer: Ohi Omoijuanfo [Molde] – 10 goals
  • Top Assister: Three players – 6 assists
  • Top Stopper: Iven Austbø [Viking] – 6 clean sheets

At nearly the mid-point of the 2019 Eliteserien, it is Molde who currently leads the table on 30 points, four points clear of Bodø/Glimt and Odd in second and third respectively. Although both the chasing sides have two games in hand over the provisional leaders. Molde are the top goalscorers in the league, having scored 35 goals in 15 games (an average of 3 per game) with Ohi Omoijuanfo having gotten 10 of those goals to lead the Eliteserien goalscoring charts so far.

Vålerenga and Brann are still in the hunt for the European spots, whilst Kristiansund and defending champions Rosenborg are tied on 21 points but with a game in hand over Brann. The champions had a miserable start to the season, having seen themselves drop to the bottom of the table after five games played, however they are now on the rise up the table. However, they have already lost five games this season – one more than they lost the whole of last season’s campaign.

At the opposite end of the table, Strømsgodset and Sarpsborg 08 currently occupy the relegation spaces, with the newly promoted Mjøndalen in the relegation play-off position. Despite that, it is a close contest between the sides from eight to the bottom of the table, with only nine points separating the teams. Strømsgodset currently have the worst defense in the league, having conceded 25 goals in 14 games, and having a goal difference of -11. Not surprisingly, they have already changed their manager with Bjørn Petter Ingebretsen resigning on health reasons, and eventually being replaced by former Eintracht Braunschweig manager, Henrik Pedersen.

 

 

So that completes my initial delve into the Norwegian Eliteserien. Again, a big thank you to everyone who voted in the Twitter poll that I initially posted a couple of weeks back, I have really enjoyed learning about Norwegian league football and have gained a huge appreciation for it and its teams. I hope you have also learnt something from my blog and have enjoyed reading about the Eliteserien and its teams. Hopefully I will be able to research more leagues in the future!

If you would like to know more about the Eliteserien, please check out its official website (which is currently in Norwegian, so Google Translate will be handy) at https://www.eliteserien.no/. Whilst the absolutely superb Nordic Football Podcast is certainly worth checking out also! If you would like a regular audible fix of Norwegian and Swedish football. They can be found at http://nordicfootballpod.libsyn.com/website, and followed on Twitter at @nordicfootpod.

If you have any questions, opinions or feedback on this blog, please contact me through the comments box below, or via Twitter @The94thMin. I would be eager to hear your thoughts, and also if you follow any Norwegian teams and the reason for it! In addition, if you have any country you would like me to focus on next, please let me know. I would love to hear from you!

Takk!

Ko-fi_Gold

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