Saturday, 29 October 2016

I Can't Believe it's not a Flora Win

... which means "Thank You!"

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 29 October 2016 at i) A Le Coq Arena and ii) Sportland Arena
FC Flora Tallinn 3 JK Sillamäe Kalev 3
Trummi SK Kohila 0 Raasiku FC Joker II 2
Premium Liiga (Estonian top tier)
IV Liiga Playoff (Estonian 6th tier)
Grounds 596 & 597 are adjacent so the KO times of 4pm and 6pm can be done..
Pre-match preparation
I spent the morning walking and taking photos in Tallinn’s old town, and I have to say I want to go back one day and give the city some more time.  Then I purchased a day travelcard for the trams and buses.  I’d decided to leave the car parked at the hotel.

Infonet’s win last night means that the first game is a must-win for Flora, otherwise their chances of the title would disappear.  Two other sides are in the same position elsewhere today.  Their visitors are secure in mid-table.   Flora play on grass at the national stadium.

The second game is the playoff between the winners of the two (east/west) regions of the IV Liiga.  Sportland is an adjacent artificial pitch, part of the same complex.
These matches in one sentence each
Flora did not turn possession into goals and their title challenge is over after a six-goal stalemate.
FC Joker scored a good goal to break their stalemate and added a second for good measure as Trummi were forced to press forward.
So what?
The easy part is that FC Joker II will move up to III Liiga while Trummi, as they say, go again next season.  The hard part is explaining what will happen in the top tier.  The top four teams play each other next week and both the title and the Europa League places will be decided.  Infonet are away at Nömme Kalju.  If Infonet win, they win the league.  If Nömme Kalju win, then they win the league unless FC Levadia have also beaten Flora.  Wins for both would see the title decided between them on whatever tie-breaker the league uses.  FC Levadia can win the league outright if they win and the Infonet/ Nömme Kalju game is a draw.  Flora cannot win the title, but a victory over Levadia would give them a Europa League place and push Levadia into fourth.  A draw would still be enough for Infonet if the other game is a draw or a Flora win.  There’ll be a test later.
The drama unfolds
I was mildly surprised at the colour clash between the five (!) orange officials and the Flora goalkeeper.  A crowd of around 150 occupied parts of one end and one wing of the ground, with all the noise coming from behind the goal.  Flora generally took the initiative and had most of the possession, but it was clear early on that the visitors were prepared for a battle.  Flora midflelder Mihkel Ainsalu gave the officials a decision to make after half an hour when he powered into the box and claimed a trip.  Nothing doing, said the ref.  Flora remained patient but they could not break the deadlock.  0-0 at half-time

Flora started the second half at pace and it needed two goal-line clearances to keep them out.  They look the lead with an excellent goal, a curling right-footer from Maksim Gussev.  1-0 after 64 mins

I have to own up to a moment of distraction with the news of Manchester City going two up at West Brom (two hours time difference, remember) so I missed the build up to Evgeny Kabaev’s equaliser.  He wears 99 on his shirt, that is for sure.  1-1 after 68 mins

Flora restored their lead almost immediately.  Keeper Eduard Orehov could only palm a right-wing cross on to the head of Markus Jürgenson.  2-1 after 69 mins

The game’s hinge point came shortly afterwards when Flora’s Rauno Sappinen curled a left footed shot on to the base of the post, but it seemed to matter not when substitute Sakari Tukiainen received the ball on the left of the area, cut inside and poked home as the keeper advanced.  3-1 after 80 mins

Flora’s season then fell to bits in ten minutes.  Firstly, Kabaev broke free on the left and gave a tap-in across the box for Aleksandrs Solovjovs.  3-2 after 83 mins

Then Kabaev himself got the equaliser as the game entered stoppage time, and there was no time for further drama.  Final score 3-3

A short walk across the car park took me to the next game, which started almost immediately in front of about a dozen hardy spectators.  Several players were wearing woolly hats themselves, as the temperature was dropping sharply.  Sportland is the first ground on my list to have clearly visible train lines at both ends!  Anyhow, the first half was played in a good spirit with plenty of worthy effort but no real chances.  Trummi’s Brazilian, Bruno, had the best chance but a defender got back just in time.  0-0 at half-time

I was getting colder and colder so the prospect of extra-time and the dreaded penalties was beginning to play on my mind.  Fortunately a neat Joker move down the left presented number 13 with the chance for a deft finish with the outside of his right foot.  They added a second five minutes later, also fashioned down the left, and the ball was rolled in to the corner.  Final score 0-2
Ground Pix

First sight of the main stadium with Sportland in the foreground

Sportland taken from the concourse of the main stadium

Children's football-related artwork is strung along the concourse

The crowd grew by a few more just after kickoff ...

Match Pix
Flora in green...

... and Trummi SK are in yellow.

Other than that, I only took one short scene-setter video-clip in the respective first halves.

Learn Estonian Through Football
Väravavahid – goalkeepers
Kaitsjad – defenders
Poolkaitsjad – midfielders
Ründajad – strikers
Peatreener – head coach
Abitreener – assistant coach
Kaks-null – two-nil
Laupäev - Saturday
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
In the first game, orange and black keepers let in three each.
In the second, a blue keeper keeps a clean sheet and a red one lets in a couple.

The full table will be reprinted later this month.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  The provisional plan is to head for a fourth-tier playoff to the east of Tallinn.  This is instead of a second-tier game with nothing riding on it.

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