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KuPS end 43 years of waiting for Finnish title

KuPS Kuopio will compete in the Uefa Champions League in the 2020-21 season.

Ilmari Niskanen tuulettaa Veikkausliigan mestaruuspokaali sylissään Turussa viimeisen ottelun jälkeen.
Image: Juha Tamminen / AOP

Savo was celebrating on Saturday after KuPS Kuopio sealed the 2019 Veikkausliiga title with a 2-0 win away at Inter Turku.

The victory ended a 43-year wait for the title for KuPS, who were last crowned champions of Finland in 1976.

“I’m speechless,” said KuPS captain and Kuopio native Petteri Pennanen. “I’ve dreamed of this since I was little, and in the last few years the title has been our clear target. Now there’s a bit of an empty feeling, but I’m proud and happy.”

An even first half left Inter some hope, but after the break KuPS stepped on the gas. First Ilmari Niskanen put the visitors ahead on 51 minutes, before Reuben Ayarna hammered the ball home from 25 metres three minutes later out to all-but-seal the win.

Inter kept plugging away but eventually their discipline frayed and Niko Markkula was sent off on 81 minutes for a second bookable offence.

Inter striker Timo Furuholm somehow remained uncautioned despite several animated altercations, but KuPS stayed in control and saw the game out to secure the trophy.

KuPS owner Ari Lahti was on hand to dish out the medals in Turku, wearing his other hat as chairman of the country’s FA.

It was a happy moment for the investment banker, who has bankrolled the Kuopio side for years.

European places up for grabs

KuPS had the chance to win the championship two weeks ago in their home match against FC Honka. A win would have confirmed KuPS as champions, but Honka equalised in the 82nd minute through Robert Ivanov to set up the title decider in Turku.

Inter now enter the Europa League in the 2020-21 season while kuPS will compete in the Champions League. Ilves also qualified for the Europa League by winning the Finnish Cup in June.

The final Europa League place will be decided by a playoff between the teams who finished in positions 5-8, who will playoff for the right to play FC Honka, who finished third, for the final spot.

VPS Vaasa were relegated to the first division, while KPV Kokkola will enter a play-off with TPS Turku for the final place in the top flight for the 2020 season.

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