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Despite a disappointing exit from the Champions League, Rosenborg look on course to retain their title.

By Sigurd Odegaard in Oslo
After a disappointing start in the World Cup qualifying group Norway, under national manager Egil Olsen, finally gave an emphatic performance, trouncing Scotland 4-0 in Oslo.

After five matches without a win, the three points against a lacklustre Scottish side were just what Olsen’s players needed to keep the World Cup hope alive.

Olsen has assembled a squad of players with a fine mixture of in-form domestic players and experienced professionals abroad. John Carew (Aston Villa) and John Arne Riise (Roma) turned in solid displays, with Riise scoring the opening goal with a deflected crisp shot.

For Riise, the match was a diversion from a court case involving one of his former agents. He managed to put in a thrilling display, showing in his goal celebrations that football is what he wants to be remembered for and not what takes place in the court room.

Brann’s exciting forward, Erik Huseklepp (aged 25), was in brilliant form and showed why Olsen deservedly gave him the chance in the national side. Having scored regularly for Brann in the Tippeliga this season and showing some brilliant attacking football Huseklepp has been the revelation of the season. The son of former Brann player of the 1970s, Ingvald Huseklepp, Erik has the pace and willingness to take on players that makes him something special.

Molde midfielder Magne Hoseth was also picked because of his fine club form. Having returned to his home town after club football with Valerenga in Oslo and FC Copenhagen, Hoseth has been back to his best.

Molde have been the surprise team of the domestic season challenging Rosenborg at the top of the table.

Swedish coach Kjell Jonevret has succeeded in transferring spark and creativity to a football team that scores more goals than any other team (45 in 20 matches).

Midfielder Makthar Thioune (Senegal) has so far been the player of the season in the league and compatriot Mame Diouf has been signed by Manchester United after an impressive scoring record but will stay on loan until the end of the season. The third Senegalese, Pape Diouf, also adds pace and sharpness to an efficient attack.

This well-balanced side of veterans and youngsters have been in amazing form for Molde, ousting big brother Rosenborg in the quarter final of the cup 5-0. Vegard Forren (central defender) and Knut Rindaroy (full-back) have taken giant steps forward in their football career.

Rosenborg started as favourites for the league trophy and have a solid lead before the final run-in of the season. In their first 20 matches they were unbeaten, having won 14 and drawn the other six.

Despite the solid league form Rosenborg could not avoid two disappointing results: the 5-0 defeat in the cup to Molde and the fact that they did not qualify for the Champions League, losing 1-0 on aggregate against Quarabagh.

Former Sunderland player Rade Prica has scored vital goals and fellow Swede Mikael Lustig has been outstanding from his attacking full-back position. Goalkeeper Rune Jarstein has been more reliable than earlier and midfielder Per Ciljan Skjelbred has continued his progress.

Coach Erik Hamren has brought stability to Rosenborg but could not hide his disappointment when the club failed in Europe. He also had to see Alexander Tettey leave for French club Rennes.

Newly-promoted Odd Grenland has also had a fine season. Coach Dag Fagermo has made his team play an efficient 4-3-3 system where striker Peter Kovacs is a menace up front and former midfielder Morten Fevang shines in central defence. Former Rosenborg keeper Arni G Arason has been the keeper of the season so far.

Brann (Bergen) made a slow start to the season and new coach Steinar Nilsen needed time to make the team function his way. The scintillating form of Erik Huseklepp and the industrious work of Eirik Bakke (ex-Leeds), Jan Gunnar Solli and Tijan Jaiteh brought the team back to winning ways. Brann are expected to fight for bronze medals but are too far behind Rosenborg and Molde to challenge for the two highest positions.

Start (Kristiansand) have also made a positive return to the top flight. Goal keeper Kenneth Hoie, midfielders Geir Fevang and Christian Bolanos have been prominent but youngsters Jesper Mathisen and Mads Stokkelien have made important contributions.

Valerenga under Martin Andresen player/manager have been disappointing and suffered a string of defeats after the summer break.

Lyn Oslo have been struggling at the foot of the table for most of the season. Despite playing some fine attacking football the Oslo club can’t win games. Coach Kent Bergersen was forced out and his assistant Gunnar Halle took over.

In addition to bad results, Lyn also found themselves in a difficult economic situation and were forced to sell key players like Diego Gustavinho (to Brann), Shane Stefanutto (returned to Australia) and Indridi Sigurdsson (to Viking).

Stabaek have found it difficult to emulate their previous season but have sen their form pick up as the season progressed. In two even matches against FC Copenhagen in the Champions league qualification they were unlucky to lose but will continue in the European League.

Goalkeeper Kan Knudsen has been excellent and has established himself in the national side. Japanese midfielder Daigo Kobayashi has proven himself to be a fine acquisition.

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