Riku Riski, heir to the throne

Sun, May 17, 2009

Finland, Veikkausliiga

Riku Riski TPSOK, maybe I am taking a step too far in comparing this 19-year old to Mr Litmanen. Still, what a performance! Riski, or RR10, as his recently innovated nickname goes, beautifully set up TPS’s winning goal against VPS and also put the ball past Henri Sillanpää himself. He was composed with the ball, passing precisely and setting up a number of chances for his team-mates. The only downside to the youngster’s performance was that he could have added to the goal tally, but as a whole he seemed like exactly the player TPS have been missing.

TPS should not get carried away. A win against a team whose head coach resigned two days earlier and who do not score many goals is perhaps not the best side to mark where TPS stand. While the likes of Babatunde Wusu, Wayne Brown, Kasper Hämäläinen, Mikko Paatelainen and Mikko Manninen put in solid performances, the two centre-backs are a BIG question mark. Jarno Heinikangas and Jaakko Nyberg don’t quite live up to the ball possession standards needed to make sure the team can get past the tough moments. The pair are too prone to hit the ball towards the horizon at the slightest prospect of enemy pressure. Such panicking often only makes matters worse.

Elsewhere, Pietari Holopainen and Sebastian Strandvall were Haka’s heroes when the Valkeakoski side claimed top spot in the league. The former scored twice and the latter once, with Strandvall also giving the assists that led to Holopainen’s goals. RoPS were beaten 3-1 despite having their moments.

Centre-back Ville Koskimaa has not been a starting 11 regular for Honka this campaign, and he failed to make things better for himself when his team paid a visit to Tampere United. Koskimaa headed a TamU freekick into his own net to give TamU a slightly surprising win. Honka have had a sub-standard start to the season, but our analysts here at NFN towers expected TamU’s internal turbulence to make more of a difference.

JJK’s record crowd of 4,022 people saw their team limit title challengers HJK to a single point. The game ended 1-1, with Medo striking the opener for HJK and Ik Kyung Nam heading the equalizer seven minutes later.

Rafael scored his first of the campaign for FC Lahti, and Mohamed Fofana doubled their lead against Jaro before the interval. Jaro got one back after an hour with Sebastian Mannström’s goal, but the visitors did not manage to do enough to secure any points.

The game between IFK Mariehamn and MYPA ended goalless. MYPA came close in extra time, but the goal was disallowed.

Some followers of Finnish football are overly obsessive about attendance figures, but some figures deserve a special mention. Firstly, TPS attracted over 5,000 people. Much of that is due to young footballers who showed up as part of a special event, but nobody should complain about it as the kids bring some much needed enthusiasm and could be the real fans of tomorrow. I already mentioned JJK’s record attendance, but Haka are also deserving of some special attention. While tonight’s crowd of 2,326 does not sound like much, it is a good figure for a club that have struggled to attract 2,000 people in recent years.

Photo courtesy of Tiina Pirilä

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This post was written by:

- who has written 60 posts on Nordic Football News.

Juhavaltteri Salminen is a Turku-based freelance journalist, known from URHOtv's Veikkausliiga broadcasts as well as erratic newspaper stories around the Finnish sport media.

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12 Responses to “Riku Riski, heir to the throne”

  1. Egan Richardson Says:

    As NFN pointed out in pre-season: swap Valakari for Riski and TPS become a decent team. It’s a shame he won’t be going to the under 21 euros this year, but there’s still time.

    Next week looks interesting in terms of the title race, with Inter-Haka and HJK-Lahti bringing together the top four. I wonder what the crowds will be like….

  2. Egan Richardson Says:

    Also: it was a bizarre decision by Lehkosuo to bring on Savage and play him on the left wing, against Rafinha, rather than the right wing, where he would have come up against TamU’s wheezing, ageing left back, Sakari Saarinen. Savage did well enough, but he was not directed at TamU’s weakest point and he could have been.

  3. Juha Salminen Says:

    Valakari was fairly alright against Inter actually – ironically, Inter scored the winner right after Valakari was switched for Riski. It might be coincidental though, as the first goal came after a refereeing mistake. But in general, Valakari is OK, Cleaver is OK; both of them on the pitch at the same time is not OK. Inter got the upper hand because there was nobody in the TPS midfield who could have done something with the ball. Riski is capable of bringing in the balancing effect, and given yesterday’s performance it is a tragic miscalculation if RR10 does not start against IFK Mariehamn this week.

  4. erno Says:

    HJK – FC Lahti will be interesting game indeed. After losing Haapala for 4-6 weeks, Klubi is also missing Medo because of 4th yellow card. At the same time Roiha is out because of red card and Fowler because of that long time injury.

    Most interesting thing in game is the center midfield of Klubi. You can propably agree with me, when I say that its impossible to prefigure whom Muurinen is going to select.

    Most of Klubi fans think that Pyry Kärkkäinen is starting with Ville Taulo. That would give a chance for Juhani Ojala, who played good preseason as central defender. In my thoughts Mursu is doing some not-so-good choice, possibly Dawda Bah with Ville Taulo at center of midfield and Petri Oravainen as left winger. Oravainen has been crap this season. Dawda and Ville, well, they are both attacking midfielders.

    Mäkelä and Vallu up front, after Parikka had an awful performance at Jyväskylä.

  5. erno Says:

    I was supposed to wrote prediction: HJK 0-1, FC Lahti 2-3. I just dont happen to see any way to edit that message ;)

  6. Egan Richardson Says:

    Juha: the question should be who is going to play with Riski, not which one of the others to drop. I know Inter have long admired him and would happily build their team around him, so TPS will have to pay him pretty well if they want to keep him. Let’s hope that pay also translates into status in the team, and he keeps his place.

    Erno: Muurinen’s selections are one of the joys of Veikkausliiga, they are often unfathomable without an experieinced Klubi Kremlinologist on hand to decipher the underlying meanings. I am surprised he played Parikka in Jyväskylä tbh, but if he didn’t play well then he will probably fall off the carousel.

    Central midfield is a problem, but HJK have an abundance of talent at under 17, under 19 and klubi-04 level, so Mursu should be able to do something worthwhile if he’s been active within the club.

  7. erno Says:

    Well, tbh the field at Jyväskylä was awful and Klubi had to throw some long balls because there was no way to keep to ball at ground. Even my grandmum knows that you dont do anything with Parikka if the ball is at air.

    The funny thing is that Mursu took five strikers to first team for this season. Does anyone of these know what to do if the ball in the air? :)

    In Klubi-04 there is atleast Törmänen who is near Veikkausliiga level. Mursu’s selections has been so conservative this season, that I can’t see any 04 players inside HJK squad.

    And yes, I can see that Mursu’s selections are one of the joys of Veikkausliiga. Just not for a guy like me who is paying to see HJK every single week :P

  8. Juha Salminen Says:

    Egan: I wouldn’t bee too concerned with who plays with him. In the end of the day Cleaver and Valakari are surprisingly similar in the role they are assigned to in TPS.

    At the moment I don’t think I’ll live to witness the day Riski would move to Inter or TPS letting him go. If there is ever going to be competition for his signature, TPS are ahead in terms of money and what the club means to Riski.

  9. Egan Richardson Says:

    Riski is unlikely ever to sign for Inter, agreed. The point is that they would have made him their midfield lynchpin a long time ago, whereas TPS are still umming and ahing about it. And they shouldn’t be.

  10. Juha Salminen Says:

    Umm…I’m not that convinced. There’s no denying that Dragtsma has a great gift of nurturing young talent – just look at the likes of Aho and Ojala. But if we look at the stats, Dragtsma has a tendency to trust a well established permanent rather than bringing in new kids. How few minutes Mäkilä or Åkerlund have got, despite the fact that Inter have been leading most of their games near the end, where it would have been possible to introduce new players? Joni Kauko, who’s in many ways comparable to Riski, is only breaking into the first team now, despite having the talent.

    I’d say that even if Riski did play for Inter, he wouldn’t have broken into the first team squad much earlier. In all likelihood he would’ve been a Kauko or Åkerlund rather than Mäkitalo or Paajanen.

  11. Egan Richardson Says:

    But all those players are a year younger than Riski, and it’s clear that the best of them, Kauko, will play a big role this season (subject to him working hard and all that). And of course, Riski is the most promising of them all. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops under Rautiainen, anyway.

  12. Juha Salminen Says:

    Yes, they are younger but they are still the next crop of youth players that are about to come through Inter’s ranks, and given that they were in front after 70 minutes in most of their games last year, they could have been given some time on the pitch without risking anything. Dragtsma did not take that course though, a decision I’ve heard a former youth coach questioning.

    Kauko is still a bit of a question mark. Inter have a solid midfield in Ramirez, Pertot and Paajanen and Kauko will need to work hard to break into the first 11. I’m surprised if he’s given much more minutes than Riski was last year.

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