Angelo Palmeri: 5 things we learned from week 11
Estonian cup semi-final - Flora-Kalju 1-2 - took its toll on Kalju as it lost its subsequent Premium League game to FC Infonet (0-1), while Flora got better of Paide Linnameeskond with a tiny 2-1 earned in the last quarter of the game. Levadia is continuing the recovery process with a 3-0 win against Pärnu Linnameeskond, whereas Sillamäe Kalev is still the best side in Eastern Estonia (1-0 against Narva Trans). Viljandi Tulevik keeps flying in the relegation pool after a comeback 3-1 win against Tammeka.
Angelo Palmeri takes a look at what these results tell us about the developments in the Estonia's domestic top-flight league.
Good enough, not good enough
Last week, we were seeking for confirmation that Narva Trans is back in the game, after they beat the hitherto unbeatable Nõmme Kalju 2-0. However, Aleksei Yagudin’s side did not pass the exam. Actually, they were very close as they managed to resist for 75 minutes against their Eastern Estonia rivals in the homonymous derby. It took the talent of Daniil Ratnikov (6 goals this season) to solve the game’s stalemate when the pint-sized trequartista hit with the most unlikely part of his body, the head. The next game against the relegation pool’s surprise package, Viljandi Tulevik, already looks like an in-or-out clash to outline definitely how Trans’ season will look like.
The ‘Future’ is bright
‘Tulevik’ in Estonian means ‘future’. The ‘Future’ couldn't look any brighter for the Viljandi side. The newly promoted team has collected 14 points in 11 games and they are leading the relegation pool ahead of Trans (10 points) and Tammeka (8). Additionally, the overall game picture has improved since their clash with the same Tammeka about a month ago (1-1 in Tartu). Led by Captain Sander Post (a brace in the Lakesiders comeback on Friday), Aivar Lillevere’s side enjoyed taking advantage of Tammeka’s weaknesses in defence (second worst defence of the league). How far can they go? A 6-point gap with Levadia should not create expectations. However, if Lokomotiv Jõhvi clinched the play-off spot last season with 18 points, it looks like Viljandi might secure safety before the Summer break, were they to keep the same consistency.
Has the magic broken?
Kalju has gone from riches (9 wins in a row) to rags (2 losses in a row). "So, the leading team may have rejoiced a little too early, since now it looks more like "Houston, we've had a problem here."
"Infonet were more lucky today, that’s why they got the three points," Sergei Terehhov, Kalju’s manager, said after losing his latest match. However, it does not look only like a matter of luck. Apart from the manager opting for rotation again (Lindpere, Wakui and Purje all at once in the dugout), Kalju looked unable to create concrete chances during the game on the Lasnamäe artificial turf. The performance was in the same fashion as under Igor Prins. Levadia are already knocking at the gates (derby this weekend in Hiiu Stadium) and with Flora shortening the gap (from -6 to -2 in two weeks) we will be able to see how Kalju can cope with pressure, retain the leadership and eventually add silverware to its cabinet. In fact, the team will play three games in just seven days: against Levadia (May 23), and Pärnu LM (May 26), and the 2014-15 Estonian Cup final against Paide LM (May 30). This could prove to be a crucial turning point of the season.
Are Estonian referees really ruining Premium Liiga?
Paide Linnameeskond’s striker, Vjatseslav Zahovaiko, was quite outspoken at the end of the game against Flora (2-1 for the white-greens) when expressing his disappointment in the referee. "Unfortunately, referees have ruined many games," Zahovaiko told Postimees. "If we take a look at all the Premium Liiga fixtures, this is simply disgusting," he fumed, following a (legitimate) penalty given to Flora by referee Mart Martin.
Is that true? So far, we have witnessed at least one grave mistake each week. Two weekends ago, for instance, Teever’s opener in the derby against Flora was scored in offside. So there is definitely need for a bit more attention by all the match officials in all games. Nevertheless, Zahovaiko's pockets might be lighter of a few hundreds euros for an upcoming fine.
Pärnu, no joy from traveling
With a 0-3 loss suffered in Kadriorg on Saturday, Pärnu Linnameeskond are the only Premium League side that have not managed to collect a single point away from home. Manager Marko Lelov is concerned that Levadia might not be able to bid for the title with their unconvincing performances; however, I would rather focus on fixing the way his side performs when visiting. The 6 times on the road this season and 6 losses, as well as the worst goal difference (-14), are a quite telling statistics of how poorly the Beachsiders have been playing on away turf. In Estonia, it is rare to see relegation sides’ coaches being sacked, however I would not push my luck if I were him.
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