Angelo Palmeri: 5 things we learned from week 15
It was yet another round of surprises as FC Flora lost to Narva Trans at home (0-1) and Nõmme Kalju was not able to dig the distance further as they conceded a 0-2 loss to Sillamäe Kalev. Everyone worked on behalf of FC Levadia (a smooth 5-1 in Paide) who are now very close to the top of the table after a difficult start to the season. In the relegation clash between Pärnu Linnameeskond and Viljandi Tulevik, the former managed to snatch the three points and leave the bottom of the table. Tammeka’s downfall continues as the Blues lost 1-2 to FC Infonet.
The Champions are back and running
The 5-1 win in Paide was a display of Levadia's ruthlessness and determination, if we still needed proof after its latest clinical wins in the derbies. After Paide opened the score and managed to keep the lead for another 20 minutes, Marko Kristal started to envisage another difficult evening. However, he had his best players to count on: Artur Pikk, Ingemar Teever and Siim Luts. Not only did they score four goals that overwhelmed Paide, but they were involved in all the main build-ups organized by the Greens. Dmitri Kruglov also played a role by serving an assist and scoring the final goal that fixed the final result. As both Flora and Kalju lost, Levadia is now much closer to the top of the table than couple of months ago, when the side was stuttering week after week. The defensive problems seem to be a history and further help will come from having signed back Artjom Artjunin, central defender returning from an unsuccessful spell in Romania (FC Brasov), ended prematurely by financial problems. Levadia’s goalscoring machine works at full-throttle – 14 goals in the last five games, more than anyone else in the Top 5. Igor Subbotin too will soon be announced as rejoining the club he left in January to try his luck abroad at Mlada Boleslav (CZE). Levadia’s shares in the season’s stock exchange are definitely on the growing curve.
Terja loses the game and the plot
In the aftermath of the 0-2 against Sillamäe Kalev, Nõmme Kalju’s coach Sergei Terehhov did not hide his disappointment with the referee's decisions. However, he admitted that he had not seen a replay of Neemelo’s two disallowed offside goals. So, did he really have a reason to be unhappy with Roomer Tarajev’s whistle? Looking at the single episodes, the call on the first offside goal (see the video here) was correct. It was actually not easy for lineman Neeme Neemlaid to spot Neemelo’s position as it was a matter of centimetres. For the second one, the ETV footage does not help to understand whether Neemelo was in offside or not when Ken Kallaste crossed from the left flank. In doubt, and with no better footage, we shall always assume the officials had a better vantage point.
Another reason for dissatisfaction were the penalties: one claimed by Kalju and one assigned to Sillamäe. For the former, it is hard to justify any claim: Japanese midfielder Hidetoshi Wakui fell over as soon as he got close to the penally box and Tarajev showed him a yellow card for unsporting behaviour. For the latter, it looks like a typical 50-50 situation: the attacking player looked for a contact and the defending one was ingenuous in conceding it, but the footage is not clear for this episode either. I have definitely seen worse decisions made and once in a while I would not put the blame on the referee for the outcome of the game. Nõmme Kalju will now need to take a breath and focus on their problems.
Flora cannot turn against the tide
The 0-1 loss against Narva Trans sent Flora to the summer break in rather gloomy mood. The loss itself was the most shocking result of the day and to boost the regret, it helped Levadia to second place in the league table. Looking at Flora’s performance, coach Norbert Hurt’s men were unable to come back and turn the game on its head. Narva Trans was even close to scoring another goal before time. The club’s new declared philosophy is to develop young players and a new type of game. However, we can see neither one nor the other aim actually working. In terms of making their young players more attractive on the already crowded international transfer market, it will be hard to merchandize players who have not won a national title or at least been close to winning it. So, the national team remains the only possible vehicle of good exposure - Maksim Gussev was called up for the upcoming international games and might be the next debutant from FC Flora following Karol Mets and Rauno Alliku.
But what will happen to coach Hurt? In 2013 he replaced Martin Lelov and soon declared that he had never seen a squad in such a bad condition as the one he inherited from his predecessor. When Hurt took over at the turn of the 2013 season, Flora was third, just three points from Levadia and four from top-of-the-table Kalju. The numbers improved only slightly after his appointment. What will he do to convince his chairman that there is no need to replace him too? Lelov’s destiny was decided in Sillamäe – Hurt plays there on June 26.
Albeit managing to lose by just one goal against FC Infonet, Tammeka seem unable to stop their free-fall. Only three points in the last 6 games is the poorest tally of the relegation zone since the second round started. The summer break will hopefully help to reorganize the team and they will be ready when the games resume with a home match against Levadia. Will any help come from the transfer window? Former players Reio Laabus and Siim Tenno are back from their experience in Germany (VfR Neumunster, Regionalliga) and could be of help for the Blues' weak midfield.
Teever, the international top-scorer
Ingemar Teever took the first place at the topscorers table thanks to a brace scored against Paide. His wonderful period culminated with the national team call-up for the matches against Finland and San Marino. His goal-per-game ratio is not one of the biggest seen – about 0.8 per game as he scored 12 goals in 15 matches - but he has proved to be clinical in the important games and when his side is in trouble, like on Saturday. This is a quality that the national team coach, Magnus Pehrsson, might take into consideration when putting together his eleven for the upcoming international appointments.
Premium Liiga will now observe a three-week break as the competition will resume on June 26, a few days after the Midsummer celebrations. Meanwhile, the national team will take on Finland in Turku (June 9) for a friendly, and San Marino in Tallinn (June 14) for a Euro 2016 qualifier. On the June 22, the Estonian clubs who qualified for European competitions (FC Levadia, Sillamäe Kalev, FC Flora and Nõmme Kalju) will be drawn to opponents for the preliminaries games in July.
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