Suspense addicts had their fill on the final weekend of the 2009 Allsvenskan season as AIK Solna, one point clear at the top of the table, visited their closest challengers, IFK Gothenburg, for a nerve-jangling title decider that, 90 minutes of raw emotion later, left AIK as the last men standing to clinch a first domestic crown since 1998, courtesy of a come-from-behind 2-1 win.
IFK looked to have given themselves a real chance of grabbing glory when they took the lead on the half hour, Thomas Olsson redirecting an Erik Lund shot into the net with his chest. However, one of the main traits of the AIK class of 2009 is character and they rocked a sold-out Gamla Ullevi by mounting a second-half fightback.
Shortly after the restart, Martin Kayongo-Mutumba set up Brazilian striker Antonio Flavio for the equaliser. Then, five minutes from time, the coup de grace was provided by skipper Daniel Tjernstrom following great approach work from Liberia’s Dulee Johnson.
Led expertly by coach Mikael Stahre, AIK totally deserved their 11th title. So disappointing in the previous campaign, they had a uniformity and belief that no other side could match.
In Argentinian Ivan Obolo and mid-season signing Flavio, they had a front line to die for, while conceding just 20 goals in 30 matches as Per Karlsson and his Dutch central defensive partner Jos Hooiveld rarely put a foot wrong.
AIK’s reward is a place in the preliminaries of the 2010-11 Champions League, while IFK will be joined in the Europa League by Elfsborg – for whom veteran midfielder Anders Svensson was as influential as ever, while summer signing from Gefle, wing wizard Amadou Jawo, blew hot and cold – and last term’s champions, Kalmar. The latter might have made a better fist of defending their title if they had not sold exciting young forward Rasmus Elm to AZ of Holland in August.
A toothless Hammarby, champions as recently as 2001, were relegated, accompanied by Orgryte and their high-profile attackers, Alvaro Santos and Marcus Allback. They will be replaced by Mjallby and Atvidaberg, while Djurgarden must fight to retain their top-flight status in a play-off with Assyriska.
After a wonderful career spanning two decades, iconic striker Henrik Larsson bid a tearful farewell to the game after his beloved Helsingborg’s 2-0 defeat at home to Djurgarden.
Now 38, Larsson scored over 300 goals for Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona, Manchester United and in two spells with his home-town club. His 37 goals in 106 appearances put him third in the national team’s scoring charts.
Helsingborg will retire his No.17 shirt in honour of their most famous son.
“I’m normally quite a cool person but now I feel like I could cry,” said a visibly moved Larsson. “I’ve already an empty feeling inside and the trick will be to fill it sooner rather than later.”
The word is he will turn to coaching, either in Sweden or Scotland, where his exploits at Celtic made him so popular.
Player of the Season
Wanderson do Carno (GAIS)
The young Brazilian finished 2009 as the country’s joint-top scorer with 18 goals – a most impressive feat for a midfielder. Also responsible for many assists, he joined GAIS in 2007 from River Atletico Clube, a minor-league side in his homeland.
Coach of the Season
Mikael Stahre (AIK)
The 34-year-old former AIK youth team coach, in his first season at the helm, proved both an excellent motivator and tactically very shrewd, transforming an underachieving, disparate set of individuals into tightly knit champions. Previously with feeder club Vasby United, who he steered from the third to second division.
Newcomer of the Season
Antonio Flavio (AIK)
The £180,000 AIK paid Sao Paulo state club Santo Andre in July for this pacy and imaginative attacker reaped an instant reward, as he found his feet in the Swedish top flight’s rough and tumble.