Sunday, 20 November 2011

Kuressaare retain their Meistriliiga status

Kuressaare 4-1 FC Infonet

Kuressaare defeated FC Infonet 4-1 yesterday in the second leg of their play-off to secure their place in the Meistriliiga next season (a 5-1 aggregate win). Kuressaare won 1-0 in Tallinn in the first leg last week following an early Andrei Borissov own goal. Kuressaare's position was strengthened when top scorer Martti Pukk headed home to make it 2-0 on aggregate just before half time. The tie was settled when Elari Valmas slotted home on the hour. Andrei Timofejev pulled one back for Infonet a minute later, but further goals from Sander Viira and Marten Pajunurm sealed the win for the islanders. 

FC Infonet finished second in the Esiliiga this season, five points off champions JK Tallinna Kalev, but will have to prepare for another season in the second tier where they will be among the favourites for promotion again.  

Monday, 14 November 2011

Euro 2012 play-off: Estonia 0-4 Ireland

Estonia 0-4 Ireland

Estonia coach Tarmo Rüütli had to admit that his side’s chances of qualifying for Euro 2012 were all but gone after the disastrous 0-4 defeat against Republic of Ireland on Friday. When asked if the tie was over, Rüütli replied ‘almost’.

The first leg of the play off was greeted with much excitement in Tallinn as 10,500 crammed into the A.Le Coq Arena for the biggest match in the twenty years since Estonia regained independence.

The game started cagily with little quality or ball retention from either side. The Irish struck first on 13 minutes as Aiden McGeady was allowed too much time to dink a cross into the area and Keith Andrews leapt highest to head home. Estonia responded well to the goal, dominating possession and territory for the next 15 minutes but with little penetration in the final third. The closest they came was via two long range efforts from Konstantin Vassiljev – one deflected just over the bar and one, that had Shay Given very worried, sailing just inches wide.

Estonia’s cause was dealt a blow by the sending off of centre back Andrei Stepanov on 34 minutes for a second yellow card. Both challenges were bookings, the second arguably a straight red. Ireland though didn’t look to have a man advantage for the rest of the half as Estonia adapted to three at the back and continued to have a lot of the ball.

A second goal was always going to seal it for Ireland and, on 66 minutes, it was provided by Jon Walters scoring his first international goal with a back post header after a looping ball from Robbie Keane. That effectively settled the result, but a goal back for Estonia would still make the second leg awkward for Ireland. However, two goals from Keane (taking him on to 53 in all) in the last 20 minutes put the result and the tie beyond doubt. The first was a tap in after Sergei Pareiko could only get a foot to Andrews’s free kick and the second from the penalty spot after Ats Purje had clipped Stephen Hunt in the box.

Estonia captain Raio Piiroja was sent off between the third and fourth goals for what looked to be a harsh second yellow card for a handball. Piiroja, Stepanov and Pareiko (after a booking for protesting the award of the penalty) all miss Tuesday night’s second leg so Estonia will be severely under strength defensively. Taavi Rähn is likely to come back into the defence, possibly with Ragnar Klavan moving from full back to centre back. Pavel Londak of FK Bodø/Glimt in Norway is likely to get the nod in goal.

The Irish were far from outstanding but showed their experience (this being their sixth play-off for a major tournament) and in the likes of Keane, McGeady and Walters had a cutting edge that Estonia would love to have.

Tomorrow night’s second leg may be something of a party for the Irish, but Estonia can learn a lot from the experience and they can take a lot from the campaign as a whole. Eesti Jalpall has press access to the game tomorrow night so you can follow my inane comments on the match at if you’re interested. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Meistriliiga week 36: Final day of the season

Goals from week 36

With Flora already crowned champions during the week, and with FC Ajax well relegated, the Meistriliiga season played its last matches with little to be resolved. There were a couple of surprise results, with Paide scoring two late goals to beat Kalju 2-1 at Hiiu. Juri Jevdokimov had put Kalju ahead shortly after half time but late goals from Rauno Kald and Tiit Tikenberg gave Paide probably their best result of the season. FC Ajax finished a punishing season with a 9-0 defeat against Tammeka in Tartu. That takes their goals conceded column to a magnificent 192 for the season. Albert Prosa netted four for Tammeka taking him to 22 for the season - a good campaign for the youngster that also saw him capped by the national team. 

Trans also suffered a shock defeat against Sillamäe in Narva. Aleksandrs Cekulajevs put Trans ahead early on - his 46th goal of the season in what will probably be his final game for the club. Sillamäe responded and were 2-1 up before half time through two goals from Aleksandr Nikulin. Artjom Dmitrijev added a third before Maksim Gruznov pulled one back late on. The veteran striker is nearing 300 Meistriliiga goals since his debut in 1992. It finished 3-2. 

Viljandi 2-4 Flora

Flora had to come from behind to beat Viljandi for the second time in a week. Viljandi's Karl Mööl equalised Markus Jurgenson's headed opener with a lovely curled finish after some good build up play. Erkki Junolainen put Viljandi ahead shortly after half time but parity was restored through goals from Hannes Anier, Nikolai Mašitšev and Henri Anier to give Flora a 4-2 win. Levadia won comfortably 4-0 at home to Kuressaare - Jevgeni Novikov's opener and Konstantin Nahk's free kick are worth a watch. 

And that's it for the season. Thanks for reading. I'll probably do some kind of season review shortly and you can keep an eye on the various other blogs and websites I contribute to, including: 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Flora crowned Meistriliiga champions: Flora 4-0 Viljandi

Gert Kams gives the thumbs up to Flora fans (pic: Hendrink Osula)

Flora Tallinn secured their ninth Meistriliiga title last night with a 4-0 victory over Viljandi at the A.Le Coq Arena. A goalless first half made for a tense atmosphere but Hannes Anier's opening goal on the hour settled the nerves. Valeri Minkenen's free kick two minutes later settled the match and further late goals from Anier (again) and Markus Jürgenson made the scoreline look emphatic. Jubilant scenes followed the final whistle as coach Martin Reim won his second title with Flora in as many seasons. 

Match highlights available at ERR Sport.  

Photo: Hendrik Osula

It has been a good title race with any of four sides capable of winning the league. Kalju's emergence and steady progress (their highest league finish) should push Flora even closer next season. Reim was delighted to retain the title: "The title is more difficult to defend that it is to win. Being favourites plays a big part." Gert Kams echoed his manager's feelings: "If you're the reigning champions, you are expected to win. It is expected Flora will win every match, but the title is still something special. Last year, expectations were lower but this season we were clear favourites."

One round of game remains this Saturday, with Flora travelling to Viljandi this time. Kalju, secure in second spot, host Paide while FC Ajax have one last chance for a win this season at Tammeka.