DAVID SMITH - Sunday, November 11, 2012
Ryan Miller and Halmstads BK took a definitive step towards their return to Sweden's top flight, putting a trio of goals past Sundsvall in the first leg of their promotion playoff.
In the run-up to the two-legged playoff against Sundsvall, the 14th-place finishers in the Allsvenskan regular season, Halmstad had been fairly cold in the final weeks of their Superettan regular season campaign.
Over their final five games, they had lost twice and drawn three times, with late defensive collapses seeming to be their Achilles heel.
Fortunately for Miller and his compatriots, Sundsvall had been on a downward spiral for even longer, failing to notch a win in nearly three months, and being on the wrong end of several lopsided defeats.
Halmstad came out as the dominant force dictating the game, however needed nearly an hour to open the floodgates.
In the 59th minute, Kristinn Steindórsson lofted in a cross from the left flank. Both Rickard Magyar and Sundsvall keeper Oscar Berglund lept up for the ball, which evaded the keeper's grasp and landed in front of the open net. Magyar's momentum also carried him behind Berglund, and he had no problem to tap the ball over the line for the 1-0 lead.
Then three minutes later, Miller made a long run up the right side, cut inwards into the penalty area, and dropped a short pass forward for Steindórsson to expertly place out of the keeper's reach for the two-goal advantage.
Not satisfied with just two, they added the final exclamation point of the game with 18 minutes left in regulation.
Kristoffer Fagercrantz spotted Marcus Antonsson slipping behind the Sundsvall defense and dropped in a perfect long-ball to the striker from the midfield stripe. Antonsson pulled it down, controlled it while turning to face goal, and then fired a perfect shot from the left side of the area just inside the right upright to complete the win.
The three-goal lead gives Halmstad a huge upper hand, and means that they will return to the Allsvenskan next year barring an utter collapse in the second leg in Sundsvall on Thursday evening.