It’s time for another monthly update for our English-speaking followers. All though this time we’re going to make an exception and also review the match on the 1st of September… you’ll find out why.
After beating SJK at home and Mariehamn away, HIFK headed towards Tampere and Ratina stadium where they were to face Ilves. During the last five seasons, HIFK have only won once in Tampere back in 2015. Ilves has been a top team the last few years, so even though HIFK had just won two matches and gotten into the swing of it, this was in no way going to be an easy match.
Things started to look promising after Sakari Mattila scored after only 10 minutes of play. He had gotten the ball just outside the box. He was scanning for a cross when he saw an opening towards goal and sent a curve ball towards the back of the goal, past Ilves’ defensive lines and past Ilves’ goalkeeper Matias Riikonen. But Ilves struck back – twice. First off was the young Mikael Almén, who was left unguarded following a corner. The second goal came through Ilves’ wonderkid Naatan Skyttä – who scored his first ever Veikkausliiga goal against HIFK last year.
In the beginning of the second half Joel Mattsson was fouled inside of the penalty box, and HIFK were awarded a penalty. Luís Henrique stepped up to the spot and calmly put it past Riikonen. After this, it could have gone either way, but it ended up in a draw between the two teams. Coach Teemu Kankkunen said that HIFK had to be satisfied with the result, as Ilves were a tough team to face – especially playing at home – and that it was a strong effort from the team to come from behind and get one point out of the match.
The next Wednesday HIFK faced another team from the Pirkanmaa region. This time it was league newcomers FC Haka. The last time HIFK faced Haka was in 2018, when both teams played in Ykkönen. Coaches Kankkunen and Keeney had opted for quite a heavy rotation, as a total of five changes to the starting eleven were made. Vitinho and John Fagerström started for the first time and Matias Hänninen returned to the opening eleven.
The first half of the match was a struggle for HIFK. FC Haka controlled the match and pushed forward, eager to take their first win. After 25 minutes Jabar Sharza took down Samuel Chidi and FC Haka were awarded a penalty. Anton Popovitch stepped up to the spot against Arnold Origi. Luckily for the HIFK supporters, his shot hit the post – no goal.
During the break, Erikson Carlos was subbed in, which gave an immediate effect. In the 54th minute Erikson Carlos came running down the right wing and made a perfectly timed and placed cross towards the other side of the pitch, where Vitinho was waiting to snap up the ball and had no problem of putting it past Michael Hartmann into the FC Haka goal.
HIFK made several substitutions, bringing in Joel Mattsson, Moshtagh Yaghoubi and Luís Henrique, and seemed to get more and more control of the match. But it wasn’t until the 93rd minute that HIFK scored their second and final goal. FC Haka were hammering HIFK in the hopes of getting a late equalizer. During what was most likely going to be the final corner of the match, FC Haka goalkeeper Michael Hartmann joined the rest of the FC Haka players in the opposition box. FC Haka didn’t get control of the ball, and Matias Hänninen was able to pass the ball to Erikson Carlos who ran towards FC Hakas goal and was at about the half line when he decided to shoot the ball instead of dribble it all the way into the net. With a classic “Tiki” move, he struck it with the inside of his foot, so it got a little curve on it. For a while it was unclear if it was going to go in or just wide. But in the end the ball slipped in just inside of the left post, a couple of meters before the sprinting Hartmann. HIFK won the match 2-0 and were now undefeated for 4 matches.
Next up was the other league newcomer, TPS from Turku. After a disappointing start to the season, TPS management decided to sack manager Tommi Pikkarainen. To replace him club management had hired former TPS player and Finland international Jonathan Johansson. TPS had already played one match under Johansson, which resulted their first win of the season. Needless to say, they were eager to ride the wave of change into another win, but HIFK were also keen on riding their own wave to five matches unbeaten. What ensued was a tight game. TPS dropped down low for most of the match, and pretty much gave the ball to HIFK, hoping to break through on quick counterattacks. This was something that coaches Kankkunen and Keeney had expected, so they had told their best long-distance shooters to to have a go at it, if they saw an opportunity. After 56 minutes, Jabar Sharza got the ball just outside of TPS’ box. He struck the ball with precision and it flew like a rocket into the top corner past a dumbstruck Jere Koponen. For a long time, it looked like Sharza’s goal was going to be the only goal of the match. But then Vitinho, who out-dribbled a total of five TPS players, put a perfect cross towards Joel Mattsson. Mattsson took one look and put a perfectly timed through ball past TPS’ defensive line, that found its way to the feet of Jani Bäckman, who was able to put the ball in goal for a 2-0 victory.
After facing TPS at home on the 10th of August, it was time to face another team from Turku, this time in Turku. Last year’s runners-up FC Inter Turku had been in good form, but only three points ahead of an equally in form HIFK. FC Inter got a penalty kick in the 22nd minute of the match, and Arnold Origi didn’t have a chance against Connor Ruane. HIFK leveled the match only 13 minutes later, as Luís Henrique got the boll outside of the box, turned around and made a fantastic shot into the upper left corner.
In the beginning of the second half Timo Furuholm got another one past Arnold Origi, but only ten minutes later Luís Henrique made his second of the night. Adama Fofana had hit the post, but Luís Henrique was perfectly situated to take the rebound. All square after 73 minutes. Only a couple of minutes later Adama Fofana hit the post for a second time, and HIFK managed to put some pressure on FC Inters goal. The match was looking more and more like it was going to end in a drew. But then FC Inter got a questionable penalty in the 88th minute of the match. HIFK goalkeeper Arnold Origi was furious at the decision and got sent off after getting two yellow cards. A disappointing end, to an otherwise spectacular match.
Sadly, there was going to be more disappointment. The two following matches were against FC Haka and TPS. It seemed that after both teams losing 2-0 against HIFK only two weeks earlier, they had now done their scouting. HIFK lost 1-0 tin both of the matches and ended August in a three-match losing streak.
But, as we mentioned in the beginning, this time we’re going to make an exception, and fit in one game from September in this review – because you can’t end on a negative result when you could end of a positive note. Even though it’s bending the rules a bit.
On September the 1st, HIFK travelled the short distance to neighbouring city Espoo to face off against FC Honka. FC Honka were still unbeaten, although only amassing 4 wins out of 11 matches. With HIFK coming off the back of three game losing streak and playing a team they had never won away against, most supporters (and media team members) would have been plenty satisfied with a draw. But luckily, this was going to end in a win.
After 11 minutes of play, Lucas Kaufmann made a huge blunder and passed the ball backwards towards goal, where an eager and hungry Sakari Tukiainen was waiting. All of the sudden Tukiainen was alone against FC Honka goalkeeper Markus Uusitalo, and calmly put the ball into the back of the net. For the most part of the next 80 minutes, FC Honka controlled the game and HIFK defended with all it had. Joel Mero, Hannu Patronen, Riku Selander and Eero-Matti Auvinen all did their jobs to ensure that FC Honkas crosses were cleared into oblivion instead of making their way into the box. Arnold Origi was as cool as always and picked up anything that made its way past HIFK’s defense. In the middle of the pitch Moshtagh Yaghoubi and Jukka Halme were doing their bit to calm down the play and tear the ball away from FC Honka players whenever they could. This, including punishing Honka for the one mistake they made in the match was enough to grab a 1-0 win.
So, there you have it! A mixed bag of results from the month of August (+ 1 day). Three defeats, three wins and one draw. Next up HIFK is going to face some tough opponents as HJK, FC Inter and IFK Mariehamn will visit Bolt Arena and after that HIFK is scheduled to play against KuPS and SJK away. No easy matches, but if HIFK has proved anything, it is that they are capable of beating any team in the league!
Pre-match VIP tickets are on sale via HIFK:s own webshop. Click here to get yours! Tickets for the matches against FC Inter and IFK Mariehamn are currently on sale. As always, you’ll find HIFK’s tickets on Lippu.fi and please remember to follow safety instructions and precautions during what is still very much an active pandemic.