Estonia's national football team came away with a nil-nil away draw in Cardiff, after its world cup qualifier Group E game with Gareth Bale's (Real Madrid) Wales Wednesday night, mostly thanks to several saves by the Estonia and Arsenal U-23 keeper Karl Jakob Hein.
Estonia had travelled to Wales off the back of two home defeats in less than a week, one 1:0 loss in a friendly against Northern Ireland and then last Thursday's 5:2 goal-fest against the mighty Belgium, at the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn. The latter game was no disgrace by any measure, and Estonia were looking to frustrate Wales' hopes of progressing from third place in the group, a position unchanged after an away win in Belarus on Sunday.
The Estonian line-up was also largely unchanged from the Belgium game, with Tottenham Hotspur U-18 defender Maksim Paskotši replacing Ken Kallaste (FC Flora) and Joonas Tamm ( Lillestrøm SK) being the only alteration.
Wales, who got through to the Round of 16 during summer's European Championships, were with Gareth Bale and Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur), the latter returning from injury, but without Aaron Ramsey (Juventus).
"With Wales, attention must definitely be paid to star player Gareth Bale, a lot of the game goes through him," Estonian midfielder and goal-scorer against Belgium Mattias Käit told ERR ahead of the game.
In the event, an early near-miss from the penalty area by winger Harry Wilson (Fulham), a chance from Gareth Bale up the middle at 19 minutes and a volley from the on-form Mattias Käit on 39 minutes, which hit the crossbar, were the main highlights of the first half
The second half started with forced substitutions on both sides, in Estonia's case midfielder Michael Lilander (FC Flora) for Sander Puri (TJK Legion), but it was goalkeeper Hein, 19, who shone for the visitors, pulling off a tricky save from a one-on-one Tyler Roberts (Leeds Utd) piece of footwork, off a Gareth Bale corner.
At 83 minutes, Hein saved two more, both from the Real Madrid man; the first s straight save, the second rebounding off the post into the path of Joe Allen (Stoke City), who also had a go – but which Hein saved as well.
Estonia's main chance saw long-serving captain Konstantin Vassiljev (Flora) strike hard at the bottom corner, but this time it was the Wales keeper Danny Ward (Leicester City) who was on the case.
Ward save a second effort soon after from the 37-year-old Estonian captain, an attacking midfielder, off a corner ball.
While referee Ruddy Buquet (France) opted to play a whopping six minutes of time added on, Wales, who really needed to win the game to keep their Qatar 2022 campaign alive, presented no last minute, and in fact it was an Estonian, Vlasi Sinjavski (MFK Karvina), who had the one chance in the dying minutes, albeit straight into Danny Ward's lap.
Estonia starting lineup: Karl Jakob Hein, Artur Pikk, Karol Mets, Märten Kuusk, Maksim Paskotši, Sander Puri, Vladislav Kreida, Mattias Käit, Konstantin Vassiljev, Henri Anier, Rauno Sappinen. Substitutes: Matvei Igonen, Karl Andre Vallner, Marco Lukka, Erik Sorga, Sergei Zenjov, Vlasi Sinjavski, Michael Lilander, Martin Miller, Robert Kirss, Markus Poom, Rasmus Peetson, Taijo Teniste.
Wales starting lineup: Danny Ward, Ben Davies, Chris Mepham, Ethan Ampadu, Chris Gunter, Harry Wilson, Joe Allen, Joe Morrell, Gareth Bale, Tyler Roberts, Daniel James. Substitutes: Wayne Hennessey, Tom King, James Lawrence, Joe Rodon, Jonny Williams, Rubin Colwill, Brennan Johnson, Rhys Norrington-Davies, Thomas Harris, Matthew Smith, Ben Woodburn, Dylan Levitt.
Estonia's all-time record against Wales is now two losses and one draw; the two teams meet again in Tallinn just over a month from now, on October 11 – also President Kersti Kaljulaid's last day in office.
Estonia is next in action in Group E on October 8, at home to Belarus. The team remains rooted to the bottom of Group E, behind Belgium, the Czech Republic, Wales and Belarus, but at least has a point now, after four games.
Editor: Andrew Whyte