The Estonian men's national football have failed to make it to the final of this year's Baltic Cup after losing 5-3 on penalties against Latvia in Riga. Estonia will now face Lithuania in the third-fourth place playoff on Saturday.
Estonia, who won the Baltic Cup last year for the first time since 1938, got off to a flying start in Riga, Flora Tallinn striker Sergei Zenjov finished off a move involving clubmates Konstantin Vassiljev and Ken Kallaste to put the Estonian team in front with just two minutes played.
However, Estonia paid the price for failing to take advantage of several good chances to extend their lead, when 21-year-old Raimonds Krollis struck on the counterattack to bring Latvia level in the second minute of first-half injury time.
After the break, Rauno Sappinen (Piast Gliwice) was denied from close range by Latvian goalkeeper Rihards Matrevics, while Erik Sorga (IFK Göteborg) and Mattias Käit Rapid Bucharest) also missed chances to restore Estonia's lead.
With the game heading for penalties, Latvian defender Roberts Savaļnieks was dismissed for a second bookable offense in time added on but it made little difference in the end.
The Latvians were clinical in the shootout, converting all five spot-kicks. In the end, it was Zenjov, whose night had begun so well, who put his penalty wide of goal, to give Latvia the win and end Estonia's reign as Baltic Cup holders.
After the match, Zenjov told ERR, that Estonia should have finished the tie off in normal time. "We had a lot of chances during the game, and we should have taken them, and not let it to come down to penalties," he said.
Captain Konstantin Vassiljev was also disappointed with the result. "It's disappointing that we lost because we had more chances," said Vassiljev. "There were a couple of chances that we didn't take in the first half and in the second half too. We dominated most of the game, but unfortunately that's the way it is when evenly matched teams play each other, it's the small things that count."
Vassiljev admitted that the Estonian team needs to be more clinical in front of goal. "We have scored one from five chances, which is not a high percentage," he said. "We are working to improve. In San Marino (during the Nations League – ed.) we scored four, so it means we can score goals. Today was just one of those days," he said.
According to winger Ken Kallaste (Flora Tallinn), there were some positives from the game. Estonia defended well and created plenty of chances. "We'll work for two days now, (to prepare for)) our next opponent, we still want to end the year with a win," he said.
In the other semi-final, special guests Iceland defeated Lithuania 6-5 on penalties after the two sides played out a goalless draw at the Darius and Girenas Stadium in Kaunas. Iceland also finished the game with ten players after central defender Hörður Björgvin Magnússo was dismissed on 84 minutes.
Latvia will now play Iceland in the final at the Daugava Stadium in Riga, while Estonia meet Lithuania at the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn in the third-fourth place play-off. Both matches kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Estonia versus Lithuania will be shown live ETV2 here.
Editor: Michael Cole