JK Narva Trans defeated FC Flora Tallinn 2-1 on Saturday to win the Evald Tipner Trophy.
For a long time during Saturday's Evald Tipner Trophy Final, it seemed like an impossible dream. Though Trans had won Estonia's main domestic men's football cup as recently as 2019, it was always going to require something special for them to defeat Meistriliiga champions FC Flora Tallinn and take the trophy back to Narva.
Flora had won their last five league games back to back, while Trans are third bottom of the 10-team Estonian top-flight with just 13 points from 15 games and a goal difference of -13.
And, while form has been known to fly out the window in cup games, there were few signs in the first half that an upset might be on the cards. Flora spent much of the opening exchanges spreading the ball around their opponent's territory with laid back ease. Trans on the other hand were left chasing shadows, running themselves into the ground just to get a foot on the ball and hack it clear, only to look on helplessly as it came straight back.
It seemed like only a matter of time before Flora would break the deadlock.
But try as they might, no goal arrived. And when their Estonian international winger Sergei Zenjov was stretchered off in the first half following a robust but fair challenge from Trans left back Aleksander Nikolajaev, Flora must have started to wonder if it might just be one of those days.
Sure enough, four minutes into the second half, Narva got their chance. A rare foray into the Flora penalty area led to a goalmouth scramble. The referee saw something no one else in the stadium appeared to have noticed and blew for a foul.
Waiting for VAR to make a decision is agonizing enough at the best of times, but the next two minutes really did seem to last forever as the crowd collectively held its breath.
Then, the whistle blew again and the referee sprinted towards the spot. Penalty to Narva. This was really happening.
Up stepped Alex Markovic, to take the kick, only to be denied by Flora goalkeeper Ingmar Paplavskis. Fortunately for Markovic, the rebound fell straight back into his path. This time the Narva number 18 managed to keep his head while all about him were losing theirs. Cue wild celebrations. 1-0 to Narva.
If the two minutes it took for the referee to award a penalty felt long, then for Narva supporters, the next 35 must have lasted an age. Flora quickly regained the initiative and it once again became a contest of defense against attack.
Then, with 72 minutes on the clock, Flora finally found what they'd been looking for. Substitute Nikita Mihhailov, signed from Narva just six months before, headed home after a neat delivery into the box. With the league leaders back on level terms, order had seemingly been restored.
But like all good fairy tales, there was still time for one final twist.
With nine minutes remaining, Paplavskis in the Flora goal failed to connect with a deep cross hit from the left. Defender Märten Küüsk seemed to have averted the danger but his clearance landed right at the feet of Do-hyun Kim.
The South Korean midfielder, on as a 64th minute substitute, took a split second to look up, before sliding a right foot shot along the floor into the empty Flora net.
Turns out there is some magic left in the cup after all. It was Kim's first goal for the club and one he's unlikely to forget it in a hurry.
This time there was no way back for Flora, who, on the day, couldn't believe they weren't better.
"It means a lot for the club and whole the city. For a lot of people, it will be the first time (they have played) in Europe, me included. It's going to be a very exciting journey," Narva Trans striker Tristan Koskor told ERR.
"It was a great effort and we got our reward."
Editor: ERR News