In an action-packed Estonian County Competition clash at the Tehvandi Stadium in Nüpli, Valga County, on Saturday, home side Valga County stormed back from two goals down at half-time to earn a point against 10-man Tallinn.
Tallinn took the lead in the 26th minute thanks to a goal from Rasmus Kuber, doubling their advantage four minutes later through Gregor Wahl.
However, with Vahur Kiis dismissed after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession, Tallinn were forced to play much of the second half with ten men. The momentum shifted in Valga's favor, with the home side pulling one back just two minutes after Kiis had left the field, through Ilja-Andris Uspehov. Just as it looked like Tallinn would hang on to take home the three points, Raul Lehismets popped up with a late equalizer for Valga, completing the comeback as the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
According to Lehismets, Valga suffered from defensive problems in the first half, but came into the game much more after the break. "In the first half, we made a couple of silly mistakes in defense, and were punished," said Lehismets. "In the second half we were able to put pressure on them. Their red card gave us more chances, we managed to get two back and that's where the draw came from," Lehismets said, summing up the game.
Tallinn head coach Vahur Kiis was also happy with the result in the end. "We could have won the game in the first half, but the boys gave a good effort. Considering the problems with the squad, we can be completely satisfied - everyone who was there fought until the end. I think it was a fair result," said Kiis. "I think everyone enjoyed it. Great pitch, great reception, great weather - what more could an amateur footballer ask for?" Kiis added.
The Estonian County Competition is played between teams of amateur players representing each of Estonia's fifteen counties, plus Tallinn, which has its own side. Each county team plays one game per year, with the points earned added to a cumulative table dating back to the start of the competition in 2012. Eventually, the counties will all play each other in both home and away fixtures, with the tournament originally scheduled to finish in 2041, 30 years after it began.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting fixture pileup in other domestic football competitions, the County Competition was suspended between 2019 and 2021, meaning it will be a further three years until its completion.
Lehismets, who scored Valga's equalizer, really likes the concept of the County competition. "It's always been great to get together and play in the same team as the guys you normally play against in the league," Lehismets said.
After eight games, Harju County lead the championship on 19 points, with Tallinn in second on 18. At the other end, Lääne-Viru County are rooted to the bottom of the table with 6 points, one point adrift of Jõgeva County, Põlva County and Hii County, who all have 7. However, with 21 years to go until the end of the competition, there is still plenty of time to turn things around.
Estonian County Championship results and upcoming fixtures for 2022
Hiiu County 0-1 Rapla County (July 23)
Viljandi County 1-0 Lääne County (July 30)
Järva County 3-1 Saaremaa (August 12)
Jõgeva County 6-0 Lääne Viru County (August 14) Põlva County 6-2 Pärnu (August 21)
Valga County 2-2 Tallinn (September 3)
Tartu County -Harju County, (September 24,16:00, Ülenurme Stadium) Ida-Viru County - Võru County. Details to be confirmed.
Editor: Michael Cole