Top-flight Estonian club FC Flora has booked a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League after beating Shamrock Rovers 1:0 away Thursday evening, giving them an aggregate victory of 5:2 over the two legs. Flora are the first Estonian club ever to reach a UEFA European clubs tournament stage, taking advantage of the new third-tier competition, launched this year and augmenting the Champions League and Europa League.
Flora had beaten Shamrock Rovers 4:2 in the first leg at the A. le Coq Arena in Tallinn last Thursday, and took the two-goal cushion with them to Ireland, where the game was played at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Shamrock Rovers are based in Dundalk.
Everyone in the Baltic's will be supporting Flora as it's been a long 11 years since Latvian side FK Ventspils played in the 2009/10 Europa League group stages and before tonight were the only Baltic side to compete in the group stages. #fcflora #fcf #UECL #balticfootball— MM Footy News (@mm_footynews) August 26, 2021
Irish Footy Vlogs Youtube channel has a review of the game below.
The first half was goal-less, but striker Rauno Sappinen hit home in the 57th minute (see video below), his eighth goal in European competition this season.
The build-up began with a missed pass by the hosts which Flora captain Konstantin Vassiljev picked up, later threading it through to Sappinen to put past the Shamrock keeper.
3,500 tickets were reportedly sold for the game at the Tallaght.
Vassiljev said post-match that the team had expected the Irish would press Flora more vigorously and aggressively, but in reality the opponents were not offered many opportunities.
"To be honest, I started thinking about the group tournament a few years ago, when the announcement of the third-tier European competition came. After winning the league in 2019, we realized how important it could be for the next one, 2020, to bring us closer to that opportunity. That dream stayed with me quietly, really quietly, however, because I didn't communicate with anyone on the subject," the 37-year-old said.
Goal-scorer Sappinen told football portal Soccernet that: "[Shamrock Rovers] had some passes and long shots, but we had a better chance of hitting the back of the net."
The UEFA Europa Conference League draw takes place at 2.30 p.m. Estonian time today, Friday, with the group games starting in September.
The UEFA Conference League is the third tier of European club football, after the Champions League and the Europa League. It was founded this year.
This article was updated to include the video of Sappinen's winning goal, and comments from him and Konstantin Vassiljev.
Editor: Andrew Whyte