Flora mops up league; Levadia changes manager
FC Flora, confirmed the Estonian football league champions a few weeks ago, lost the last game of the league to Paide. Levadia has now changed head coaches and brought in Sergei Ratnikov, who won the first titles for Levadia 16 years ago.
Flora lost the last match of the 2015 league season to Paide 1-2, neither side had anything to play for, having already secured their first and seventh place respectively. Watch the goals here.
Levadia, champions in 2014 and 2013, needed one point to secure second place, but ended up trashing fourth place FC Infonet 5-0. Kalju, fourth a year ago, ended third with a 2-2 draw away at Viljandi Tulevik. Sillamäe Kalev, second a year ago, beat Pärnu 2-1 and ended in fifth. Narva Trans was sixth, 10 points from fifth and 16 ahead of seventh.
In the relegation zone, Tartu Tammeka and Viljandi began the day on 22 and 21 points respectively, with the last place automatically going down and ninth facing play-off games. Tartu beat Trans 2-1 while Viljandi could only manage a draw.
That means Viljandi will start the 2016 season in the second strongest division, while Tammeka will play against Tallinn Kalev for the last spot in the top league. The winner of the second-strongest division, the Esiliiga, will not play in the top league as it is the reserve side of Flora, which won the title ahead of Levadia's reserve team, similar to the top league. Infonet's reserve side was third meaning that Rakvere Tarvas, only fourth in the Esiliiga, received promotion to the top league. Kalev was sixth in the Esiliiga, the second best non-reserve side.
Kalev and Tammeka will face each other on November 15 and 21.
Levadia hoping to bounce back
The season was especially meaningul for Flora and Levadia, the two dominant sides in Estonian football since the 90s. Both sides had claimed nine titles and were gunning for double figures.
Levadia has now parted ways with Marko Kristal for Ratnikov, who first led Levadia to the top league in Estonia 16 years ago.
“Changes will be great. The team will become younger. In Estonia, people say 20-21 year-olds are young players, but I have a different understanding. I think a 17-18 year old footballer should be ready to play,” Ratnikov said. He has a three-year contract.
Spectator numbers up
In what is one of the most important figures in Estonian football, one of the least followed leagues in Europe, match attendance numbers were up 27 percent, soccernet.ee reported.
The growth over three seasons is even greater – 70 percent.
A record 58,536 turned up to watch a top league match in 2015, despite a record number of matches being aired on television or online. Out of the 180 top league matches played this year, 177 were shown live. Online viewer numbers doubled, while the number of people watching reviews of games on Youtube jumped from 180,000 last year to 450,000 this time around.