Drammen-based football club Strømsgodset (SIL) was relishing its victory at the Norwegian championships on Sunday, after beating the beleaguered but highly respected football club Follo FK. Follo saw its dream of winning the Norwegian Cup end after SIL beat them 2-0 in the so-called “Cup Final” at a packed Ullevål Stadium in Oslo.
The final of the Norgesmesterskap (“Norwegian Championship,” usually referred to as Cuppen or NM), is seen as the climax of the football season but gained much attention this year because of the participation of Follo, a team that plays in the second-tier of the Norwegian football system (known as the Adeccoligaen). The small club based in Ski, south of Oslo, beat some of the best teams in Norway on its way to the final, including top league champions Rosenborg of Trondheim in the semi-final, a win described as the biggest shock in the competition’s 108-year history.
On Sunday, in a first half that was for large parts dull, Follo failed to create any real chances of note. Their direct style was determined but never dangerous, as chances failed to materialize from a few hopeful long balls, corners and long throw-ins.
Strømsgodset created a number of half-chances but scored with their first real attempt on target after 29 minutes – following good play down the left between Øyvind Storflor and Joe Riddez on the overlap, striker Ola Kamara beat his marker to head the ball high over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Just 10 minutes later, Strømsgodset extended their lead. After Marcus Pedersen was denied a good goal thanks to a save by veteran Follo goalkeeper Glenn Arne Hansen, the resulting corner fell to defender Glenn Andersen in the box, who faced little challenge as he headed in from close range.
The second half started more openly than the first, with Follo creating a few decent chances. Nonetheless, the gulf in class between the sides became even clearer, and Strømsgodset looked far more likely to score than to concede. Kamara should have scored again just three minutes into the half when one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but two good saves by Hansen denied his efforts.
Jo Inge Berget, on loan from top Italian side Udinese, was guilty of wasting a few chances for Strømsgodset when through on goal, most notably when he shot well wide with just Hansen to beat on 67 minutes. The remaining minutes of the game lacked energy and, with the wind well and truly taken out of Follo’s sails, Strømsgodset was able to hold on and win comfortably, becoming Norwegian Football Champions for the first time since 1991.
Strømsgodet, presented the winning trophy by King Harald V, will now represent Norway in next season’s Europa League, a continent-wide football tournament. Follo’s future remains bleak because of financial problems, but the pride generated by their unforgettable efforts in the cup will no doubt improve their chances of surviving and rebuilding.