Football: Paide and Flora both win in opening Conference League matches
Paide Linnameeskond recorded a historic victory on Thursday in their UEFA Conference League first preliminary round first leg match away to Georgian side Dinamo Tbilisi. The Estonians, who were behind for most of the game, stunned the hosts with two late goals to record a 3-2 win. FC Flora Tallinn won 1-0 at home against Finnish side Seinäjoki.
During a cautious opening half, it was the Georgians who took a deserved lead through midfielder Davit Skhirtladze on 22 minutes with the game's first shot on goal.
After the break, the game opened up. Just as the hosts seemed to be in full control, Siim Luts levelled the scores for Paide, taking advantage of a defensive error to smash an unstoppable left-footed strike past Andrés Prieto in the Dinamo goal, to make it 1-1 in the 61st minute.
But Paide's celebrations didn't last long, with Dinamo regaining the lead just four minutes later through 22-year old defender Levan Harabadze.
With 75 minutes played, Luts had a great chance to bring Paide level again, only to see his effort from substitute Ebrima Singhateh's cross rebound off the post to safety.
Paide finally got their breakthrough in the 81st minute, when Ghanian defender Abdul Razik Yusif, chested down Karl Mööl's lofted free kick into the penalty area, then picked out Ebrima Singhateh on the edge of the six-yard box. Singhateh made no mistake, slotting the ball into the net to make it 2-2.
Eight minutes later, with the tie heading for a draw, another lofted free kick, this time from Andre Frolov caused panic in the Dinamo defense. After several ricochets, Kristofer Pihti pounced for Paide, completing a memorable 3-2 win for the Estonian side, their first in European competition.
Paide will now be hoping finish the job in the second leg on July 14, when they host Dinamo Tbilisi at Pärnu's Rannastaadion. The game kicks off at 19:00 Estonian time.
FC Flora Tallinn also got their European campaign off to a good start, with a 1-0 win over Finnish side Seinäjoki at the A. Le Coq Arena on Thursday in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League.
Although Flora controlled much of the match and created several chances, Martin Miller's 21st minute strike is all that separates the two sides ahead of the second leg, which will take place in Finland on July 14.
It was Miller too, who scored the decisive goal in Flora's 1-0 victory over Serbian side Partizan Belgrade during last season's Conference League, the first ever win by an Estonian side in the group stages of a UEFA competition.
Should Flora manage to hang on to their first-leg advantage next week in Finland, a place in the second preliminary round of the Conference League awaits them. A defeat would spell their end of their European campaign for this season.
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Editor: Michael Cole