Paide Linnameeskond come back from two goals down to win Estonian Super Cup
Paide Linnameeskond have won the Estonian Super Cup for the first time in their history after a remarkable come back at the Sportland Arena. Two down at half-time to Meistriliiga champions Flora Tallinn, Paide's fans shed tears of joy at the final whistle as their side snatched an incredible 3-2 victory with the last kick of the game.
With a minute to go until half-time on a windswept afternoon at Tallinn's Sportland Arena it seemed like the result was in no doubt. Estonian Meistriliiga champions Flora Tallinn had just extended their lead over Tipner Trophy winners Paide Linnameeskond to 2-0, thanks to Rauno Alliku's second strike of the game.
In the Estonian equivalent of the Community Shield, Alliku had broken the deadlock on 22 minutes and with Flora dominating proceedings, his second on the stroke of half-time appeared to have settled the contest.
But whatever Paide Linnameeskond head coach Karel Voolaid said to his players at the interval, it certainly did the trick.
An entirely different Paide emerged after the restart, buoyed on by an enthusiastic band of traveling supporters, who remained undeterred by their side's two-goal deficit and the bone-chilling temperatures of -4C in the stands.
And finally on 59 minutes they had something to really cheer about, when Robi Saarma pulled one back to make it 2-1. The comeback, it turned out, was well and truly on.
21-year-old Saarma, who made his debut for the Estonian national team against Finland last month, was involved in the equalizer too. It was his free kick in the 76th minute, lofted to the back post, which caused panic in the Flora defense, and led to an own goal from the unfortunate Erko Jonne Tõugjas.
At 2-2, both sides had chances to win the game. Every time he got the ball, Paide's Senegalese forward Micheni Gomis seemed to cut through Flora like a knife through butter. Meanwhile, at the other end, the Meistriliiga champions were left feeling aggrieved when a good shout for a penalty was turned down by the referee.
Then, with extra time looming, it was that man Saarma again, who burst into the penalty area and slotted cooly past Evert Grünvald in the Flora goal to give Paide their first ever Estonian Super Cup win.
In the stands, it was "Paidemonium" for the traveling Paide fans, with more than a few tears of joy shed during the celebrations.
"It feels amazing. It's great to have been able to play my part in this. But, I think the whole team deserves a huge round of applause," player of the match Robi Saarma told ERR after the game.
"I think the first half wasn't the best for us, but when we were in the dressing room, the guys knew that this was not the kind of final we came here for. In the second half we managed to pull ourselves together. We became more aggressive and when the chances came along, we took them," Saarma said.
"Emotionally, we are not the underdogs. (It was just) like last year, when we went behind in quite a few tough games, but came back strongly. Sometimes (last season) we didn't end up getting the points, but we always played with dignity," said Paide head coach Karel Voolaid.
The 2023/24 Estonian Meistriliiga season gets underway next Friday, March 3, when the opening game sees defending champions Flora take on newly promoted Harju JK Laagri at the Sportland Arena.
Voolaid for one, believes, that the Super Cup Final has set the precedent for what should be an exciting start to the new campaign.
"For a month this year, the championship will be just like it was today. All the matches will be extremely competitive. Now Flora's other rivals in the league have seen, that you can beat them by playing a combative game." Voolaid said.
"It's going to be a really intense and exciting first month, while there is still snow on the pitch," he added.
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Editor: Michael Cole