Oper's Testimonial Game Ends 1-1

Andres Oper at his final press conference Monday night. (Toomas Huik/Postimees)
5/26/2014 2:00 PM
Category: Sports
Estonia could not repeat the 2-0 victory fought out against Gibraltar earlier in the year, only managing a 1-1 draw against the territory with nearly 5,000 people attending the game in Tallinn.

Estonia's all-time top scorer, Andres Oper, bowed out of the sport, playing the first 35 minutes in which he showed he still has great positional sense and can make dangerous runs. A slight lack of pace and luck was needed, but his 39th international goal remained unscored.

The game itself was eventful with plenty of chances for both sides. Captain Ragnar Klavan continued his rich vein of goals, scoring on the 31st minute after a corner. Anthony Bardon scored for the visitors on the 71st minute.

The negatives

A few other older players showed readiness for retirement, with Taavi Rähn, 33, being caught out in the equalizing goal, Sander Post, 29, being upstaged by the 36-year-old Oper in many aspects of the game and the other Sander, Puri, 26, proving yet again he is far too inconsistent for international football.

Otherwise the home side gave too much space to Gibraltar, in effect an amateur side, made a number of simple errors and showed a lack of depth against theoretically the worst team on the continent.

The positives

Karol Mets, 21, a defender playing out of his normal position as a defensive midfielder deserved to be named man of the match. Solid defending and fast and confident going forward he nearly made an assist for Oper in the first half. The game was much about experimentation for new coach Magnus Pehrsson and he now has one name certain to feature in the qualifying games in the fall.

Frank Liivak, 17, made his debut and showed more technique and maturity than any other Estonian footballer at his age. He looked to be having a quiet debut, but then showed tricks and positional sense last seen in Oper to liven-up the game and nearly score.

--

Oper, who has scored a record 33 goals in 133 national games, announced his retirement in February after failing to recover from a shoulder injury in June last year.

Oper had arrived in Estonia for a couple of national team games, but a taxi he was sitting in was rammed by a bus, causing him the severe shoulder injury. The striker also suffered a major injury in February that year in a game against Scotland. He had to spend a night in the hospital.

The striker began his professional career with FC Flora in 1994, moving on to AaB of Denmark five years later for a reported 750,000-euro transfer fee, a huge sum for an Estonian footballer. After a successful spell in Denmark, Oper spent two seasons in Russia with Torpedo Moscow before signing with Roda JC of the Netherlands.

He then spent short stints in China and in the Netherlands again before settling in Cyprus.

His record 38 goals for the national team is likely to remain the benchmark for years. Out of the active footballers, Konstantin Vassiljev is fifth on the team's all-time top-scorers list with 17, while youngsters Henri Anier and Sergei Zenjov have 12 between them.

Oper's greatest moments for the national team came in a match against Russia, when he scored two goals (watch here), and one against the Netherlands (watch here).


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