Estonian Clubs in Europe
Estonian Clubs in Europe
Estonian Clubs in Europe
As usual, we bring you exclusive profiles of European opponents of the Estonian clubs through precious external contributors.
It's the time of Craig at @SwissFootball who recounts about the Switzerland top-flight action on his blog 'Swiss Domestic Previews' and at his Twitter account, @SwissFootball
Craig has accepted to give us an outlook of FC Vaduz ahead of Thursday clash with Nõmme Kalju
There should be no mistaking that Vaduz are still a minnow when it comes to European football despite playing in a league that has seen its champion produce European heroics over the last few seasons.
While the Swiss league is home to Vaduz, the club come from the capital of Liechtenstein and as winners of the Liechtenstein Cup, they are the sole representation in Europe for their country, a position they find themselves in more often being the highest ranked and best team out of all of the Lichtensteiner teams in the Swiss league system.
So, Vaduz are no stranger to European competition and have caused some surprises along the way. Their aim is to go further than ever before and that journey began with a comfortable 10-1 aggregate over SP La Fiorita in ties that saw history made with La Fiorita scoring their first-ever European goal through former Italian international and Roma player Damiano Tommasi.
That match was one that Vaduz would themselves overwhelming favourites in and most likely will be the only one that they find themselves in that situation in this campaign.
Vaduz narrowly avoided relegation last season as they went through several bad patches. However, the much poorer form of Aarau was enough to see them stay in the Swiss Super League for a second consecutive season.
After the brush with relegation, Vaduz have looked to strengthen their squad by bringing in five players. They have also let four players leave the club during this summer with potential deals still be done by the end of the transfer window.
Mario Sara at 33 was one of those to leave as he moved back to his native Austria to play for SC Ritzing in the Regionalliga. Sara spent five years at Vaduz but fell out of favour making just eight appearances this season.
Vinzenz Flatz at twenty years old failed to make the grade while Kwang-Ryong Pak and Hekuran Kryeziu, both of whom made many appearances over the season, both returned to their respective clubs after their loan spells.
In the door comes Mario Buhler played a big part in Wohlen's push for promotion last season and makes the step up. Ali Messaoud transfers from Dutch football and the attacking midfielder managed five goals in twenty-seven appearances in the Eredivisie for Willem II last season.
Stjepan Kukuruzovic makes the move from Hungarian side Ferencvarous were he made eleven appearances including four in the Europa League. FC Porto youth player Mauro Caballero joins on loan while Robin Kamber makes the move from Basel.
With much of last season's squad sticking together, Vaduz will be hoping that they can perform much better this season.
Vaduz manager Giorgio Contini spent much of the early part of last season figuring out the best formation for his side and it wasn't until Matchday 14 in the Swiss Super League that he found him preferred side.
The opening game of the season saw him line up in a 3-1-4-2 formation before trying out four more formations over the next thirteen games often rotating between those five more formations before settling on a 4-3-3 formation for the visit to Bern to play Young Boys on November 2nd, a match they surprisingly won by a 1-0 scoreline.
Contini would tinker for the next two matches before sixteen consecutive Super League matches with this formation. It was only the last few matches of the campaign that it would change with a 4-3-1-2 against Luzern, 3-4-3 vs. Zurich and a 4-1-4-1 on the final day of the season.
It is anyone's guess which formation that Contini will go with on Thursday for the match vs. Kalju. This time last season, he played a 4-2-3-1 vs. College Europa before a 3-1-4-2 in the second leg and a 3-5-2 in their game vs. Ruch Chorzow.
Their games against La Fiorita saw Vaduz employ a 4-4-2 formation in the trip to Serravalle before reverting back to 4-3-3 in the second leg and while it is Contini's most used formation, there is no guarantee it is the one he will use.
The man between the sticks though will most definitely be Peter Jehle, the thirty-three year old Liechtenstein international has been the Vaduz number one since 2009. He played the first leg vs. La Fiorita and wasn't needed for the second leg with the match already won. He played all but eight games in the league for Vaduz last season and seven of those absences were the result of a torn tendon.
von Niederhausern or Joel Untersee will be deployed in the right back position with Niederhausern more likely after becoming more favoured over the latter course of the season. Florian Stahel should start in centre back with either Pavel Pergl or Simone Grippo joining him. Pergl featured far less last season at the age of 36 but started and scored in the first leg vs. La Fiorita with Grippo playing in the second leg. Aliji will begin at left back ahead of Cecchini.
As for the more attacking options, Hasler and Ciccone. Scurpf and Lang could be deployed out wide with Sutter and Neumayr favoured up front or if Contini goes with the 4-3-3 then the front three would most likely consist of Schurpf, Lang and Neumayr.
However, with Kamber and Muntwiler netting in the second leg, they may get the chance against Kalju.
Contini may be in a good position that it isn't exactly clear how or who with Vaduz will line up on Thursday and that just may surprise Kaiju.
It will be a boost for Kalju though that Vaduz seem frail both defensively and in attack. Despite their trashing of La Fiorita, they did concede against the minnows, even if the aggregate score at the time was 9-0. They conceded fifty-nine goals over thirty-six games, third only to Aarau and sixth placed St. Gallen who staggeringly conceded the most of all. They were also able to score only twenty-eight times, the lowest total of all the teams in the division.
If Vaduz score though it will most likely come from Schurpf, Lang, Neumayr or Sutter with seven, two, five and three goals respectively last season.
STREAK IN EUROPE
Vaduz have participated in European football twenty times in their history and in seventeen of the last eighteen seasons. They were a feature in the competition in all of its guises having appeared in the Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League
That isn't to say that they have been entirely successful. Having played thirty-eight matches in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, they managed just eight wins, drawing eight and losing twenty-two, scoring thirty-three and conceding 61 in the process.
Vaduz have been progress in recent seasons though. Having never progressed beyond the second qualifying round and suffering defeats in the early 2000s to teams such as Amica Wronki, Varteks Varazdin and Livingston, they reached the third qualifying round for the first team, besting Zrinjski Mostar and Scottish side Falkirk before defeat to Slovan Liberec.
Co-efficient points also helped as for the next few seasons they entered in the second qualifying round and were able to defeat Vojvodina in the 11-12 season only to lose to Hapoel Tel Aviv in the third round.
They returned to the first qualifying round with a defeat to Chikhura Sachkhere of Georgia in the 13/14 season before last season eliminating College Europa and running Polish side Ruch Chorzow close, losing out in Poland by a 3-2 scoreline after a 0-0 draw at home against a superior side.
Scoring ten goals in the first qualifying round this season was obviously a confidence booster but the gulf in class between La Fiorita and the vast majority of the other sides in this competition has to be noted and it will be a step-up against Kaiju.
· Christian Stober scored the first ever European goal for Vaduz in a 7-1 thrashing by Chernomorets in Odessa.
· Vaduz lost their first two European ties by 12-1 and 14-1 scorelines to Chornomorets Odessa and Hradec Kralove
· Their first goal in the UEFA Cup was scored by Uwe Wegmann while Emil Noll scored the first UEFA Europa League goal.
· Vaduz have won forty-two Liechtenstein Cups, the most of any side in their country.
· Vaduz were formed on Valentine's Day 1932 and won their first ever games vs. Balzers by a 2-1 scoreline.
· Vaduz originally played in Austrian football, moving to Switzerland in 1933 after one season.
· Vaduz are the only side from Liechtenstein to have reached the Swiss top flight so far.
· Vaduz have employed thirteen managers, none of which have been from Liechtenstein.
· Vaduz once played FC Basel in a UEFA Cup qualifier despite playing in the same league.
As against FC Aktobe from Kazakhstan, Nõmme Kalju will set the first precedent ever against FC Vaduz from Liechtenstein since the two nations never clashed at club level.
We can count instead on five precedents at national team level, all after restored independence (1991).
The first one dates back to October 1993 in Balzers (LIE) when Estonia earned their second win ever after regained independence. That would have been Estonia’s ultimate win for three long years (2-0 the full-time score for Estonia).
With a 11-year leap, we reach August 2004 when in Vaduz, Estonia bag the second win in a row against the microstate. 2-1 win with winner goal scored by present-day Kalju player, Joel Lindpere.
It was a WC 2006 qualifier and Estonia hosted Liechtenstein almost a year after (June 2005) in Tallinn for the return game, bagging another win for 2-0.
The most recent precedents date back to 2010 (1-1 in Tallinn in a friendly game) and in 2013 (3-0 for Estonia in Vaduz for another friendly).
At the same time, we shall consider that FC Vaduz play in the Swiss Super League having accessed the Europa League via the ‘Prince Cup’, the only competitive tournament in Liechtenstein (there is no league).
Taking into account the precedents against Swiss teams, it does not look as rosy.
The very first precedent dates back to UEFA Cup season 1996-97 when now-defuncty club, Lantana Tallinn, lost 2-4 on aggregate to FC Aarau. Lantana managed to win 2-0 at home setting the only win of Estonian clubs against Swiss ones.
The second precedent dates back to 1998 when Viljandi Tulevik was eliminated 3-9 on aggregate by San Gallen in the Intertoto Cup first round.
In 2002, and again in the Intertoto Cup (second round), FC Levadia lost 0-1 on aggregate to FC Zürich.
The most recent clash dates back to 2012-13 Champions League as FC Flora conceded 5 goals on aggregate to FC Basel in the second qualifying round of the main continental competition.
1 win, 1 draw and 6 losses the final sheet against Swiss top-flight clubs.
Despite the short European career, Kalju have set a successful pace in the last two seasons.
The Europa League play-offs reached in 2013-14 represent the club’s highest peak in the European cups.
At their six participation in the Europa League, the club from the Tallinn’s green district of Nõmme aim at creating another continental shock as in 2013 when they eliminated HJK Helsinki in the Champions League second qualifying round.
After they were drawn against FC Aktobe (KAZ) in the first qualifying round, there was a lot of pessimism in the Estonian press on the chances to make it to the next round.
If we exclude Sillamäe (which were eliminated with a 7-3 on aggregate) the other two clubs (FC Levadia in Champions League and FC Flora in Europa League) were seen as easily going through. Against all odds, Nõmme Kalju is the only club left in Europe with serious ambitions to reach the third qualifying round.
Compared to last season’s squad (check 2014 preview here) there were few changes.
The goalkeeper is still Vitali Teleś, the captain who proved to be the second best shotstopper of the Premium Liiga in the past two seasons. He probably still lacks a bit of confidence when playing with his feet a-la’ Neuer (the mistake against Lech Poznan in the return game last season cost Kalju the extra time in Poland), however he is fully on it between the sticks. He proved that in the return game against FC Aktobe when he was the MOTM after 90' minutes of game in Kalju's half.
The defence is solidly led by Portuguese centreback, Jorge Rodrigues together with former captain Alo Bärengrub. The latter, started the season from the dugout and managed to regain a start thanks to confident and consistent performances. The full-backs are entrusted to the young Karl Mööl (right) and to Ken ‘Iron Man’ Kallaste (left). Ken is one of the most favourite players at the club. The 26 years old was close to a move to IFK Norrkoping during the winter. After favourably impressing the management, they decided not to sign him for financial reasons (too many players at the club and especially in his role). National team regular under new coach, Swedish Magnus Perhsson, Ken is the absolute added value of Nõmme Kalju. His sharp crosses from the left corridor and the poisonous set-pieces represent one of the most dangerous solutions in the pockets of coach Sergei Terehhov. If Kalju were to lose Ken during this window, it would have been a gap hardly fillable both from within the existing squad. After sending away one weak alternative (French Nicolas Galpin) the club has brought in Bosnian player Borislav Topic who could play as a left back, left winger and also defensive midfielder. A good jolly that Terehhov has been using in the latter role in the goalless draw against Aktobe in Tallinn.
The great start of season (9 wins in a row) was followed by a black-out (3 losses in a row) that allowed rivals FC Levadia and Flora to shorten the gap. They lost the top of the table and regained it in few weeks and, at the moment of writing, they are behind Levadia and Flora fighting for the 2015 title. The packed calendar before the break compelled coach Terehhov to rotate players. A necessary move that showed Kalju’s main flaw: lack of sufficient players to play at a certain level.
Exception made for Erik Listmann (right winger) the other youngsters have not proven ready for the call, among others the promising striker Andre Järva (trials in Italy at Atalanta and Juventus youth system) who recently suffered an injury and was not included in the squad against Aktobe both away and home.
The impression is that Kalju might be short of breath in the most important phase of the season (June-July) when European games and title fight define the course of the second part. Terehhov will have to count upon his ideal XI to be always fit and ready for the call.
Said that, Terehhov’s 4-2-3-1 has seen the midfield being populated with the likes of Japanese Hidetoshi Wakui (pacey midfielder with good goal tally) behind the lone striker having Artjom Dmitrijev and Eino Puri covering his back when needed.
Dmitrijev can also play as a striker up front (his old role) however he did not show much confidence with the role any longer and was replaced by a more effective Tarmo Neemelo. The veteran player (past spells in Sweden and former international) is able to give a battle with his physical play (he is 192cm...) by holding the ball and allowing the team to come upfield.
French Reginald would normally occupy one of the defensive midfield roles, however the player has been blighted by injuries since start of season and has been on and off the starting XI. In the return against FC Aktobe, he replaced Hidetoshi Wakui and had a positive second half. When in shape, he can master alone in front of the defence with great authority and pace. Reginald is able to come out with the ball in a rather brilliant way, resembling players a-la' Yaya Toure'.
Ats Purje is the danger from the left flank as he can either set others up or score himself on progressions. His goal in Kazakhstan gifted Kalju with the qualification to the next round. In the return game he sacrificed himself to defend the advantage cumulated in Aktobe and earned also a yellow card. He is an Estonian international and scored a brace in June against Finland giving Estonia a famous win away in Turku, his previous work place (Inter Turku).
Another valuable striker, Vladimir Voskoboinikov, has been sidelined by a long-term injury and has only recently seen the pitch again. In the game against FC Vaduz, Neemelo could be the target man of the XI that has developed an interesting game under the new guide of Sergei Terehhov. The latter switched from the desk (sport director) to the dugout as he had his coaching badges done in the past years in the final bits of his playing career.
Contrary to Igor Prins’ Kalju, Terehhov has developed a more interesting concept of football: the ball flies rarely in the air and the flanks are effectively supplied and supplying. Neemelo adapted to this game providing a valid role as forward buoy for the inputs of the midfielders. We should not forget Allan Kimbaloula, the French right winger (a Lille LOSC product) who is the team’s top-scorer (6 goals). He did feature in both games against FC Aktobe and was the one to start the action on Purje's goal.
The star of the team, the one ‘who decides games’ (as he defined himself after a derby against Flora) is Joel Lindpere. He recently reached the record of 100 games with the national team in a 2-0 win against San Marino in the European Qualifiers. If fit, he can really provide Kalju with the cutting edge. Lindpere can boast a spell at New York Red Bulls in the company of no less than Messieur Thierry Henry.
STREAK IN EUROPE
18 games played in 6 campaigns (including this one) have brought Kalju 4 wins, 6 draws and 8 losses. The most famous scalp are HJK Helsinki, eliminated on aggregate (2-1) in 2013-14.
Other famous oppositions have been Viktoria Plzen (CZE, 2013-14 Champions League), Dnipro Dnipropetrovks (UKR, 2013-14 Europa League) and Lech Poznan (POL, 2014-15 Europa League).
The club rose in the last 6 years to the riches of the Estonian football marking a 10-year growth that brought them from the abysses of Estonian amateur leagues, to the first title ever (2012).
A brief story of the club is available here.
· The first European goal was scored by Mikk Haavistu againsy FC Dinaburg (2009-10) in the return leg in Tallinn lost 1-2
· The nickname ‘Pink Panthers’ comes from the original kit displayed by Kalju and supplied by Lotto on the same model of US Palermo.
· The right full-back, Ken Kallaste, is the son of legendary Risto Kallaste, the flip throw-in performer of the Estonia national team of the 90’s
· When they won the title in 2012, they were the first to celebrate in Tallinn’s streets on an open bus
· Kalju’s home stadium is Hiiu Stadium, however, due to the small venue missing the UEFA badges, they have elected A.LeCoq Arena as their home groud.
· Kalju belongs geographically to the Tallinn city district of Nõmme where Finnish legend, Jari Litmanen, has set his home together with his Estonian wife. Jari’s kids are regulars at youth trainings at Kalju and in the past there was a rumour he might end his career with the ‘Pink Panthers’. During the winter, Jari was seen at the Kalju’s camp keeping form for his ‘Liverpool Legends’ games around the world.
· Kalju in Estonian means ‘rock’ or ‘cliff’
Guide to Tallinn city (ENG)
KALJU FC (4-2-3-1)
On 24’ minutes the first great save of the game as he denies Pizzelli the opener from distance. Before that nothing to be to worried about since the defence covered the box adequately. Another miracle made on 29’ minutes when he blocks a powerful shot by Danilo. On 52’ minutes he cannot do anything when the same Danilo hits the bar with a header, Goddess Fortuna helps him. On 64’ minutes he makes a real miracle on Captain Logvinenko short-range header. Same story against Korobkin (70’). Under pressure for 90’ minutes plus added time. MOTM.
Always attemptive when Aktobe’s attacks come in his way (often in first half due Brazilian Neco being very active on Aktobe’s left side). He is also keen in restarting the build-up as he was an attacking midfielder.
Very focused in first half, stops a cross from the left side and with the help of Kallaste walls an attempt by De Oliveira in the box.
The defence leader doesn’t lose his composure even when a teammate makes a mistake on a counter and he needs to track back and put a patch. As usual, he never gives up.
A more defensive game for the Estonian international, but it was worth. Aktobe’s right side was never an issue and even compelled Gazzaev to rest Danilo and give a chance to Zhamulkan with no avail. The cross for Dmitrjev in first half was the best thing seen in the attacking phase.
E. PURI 6,5
If you need a workdog to defend the score, call Eino Puri. Lacked brilliance in the counters, but that is normal.
A lot of dirty work in front of the defence to protect the back line. In second half Terehhov replaces him with Reginald in order to bring fresh energies for the battle.
A couple of interesting initiatives in first half, however he disappears as Kalju are prone to defend rather than control. He always gives the impression he could hurt on one-on-one’s and Aktobe defenders are keen in double-teaming or committing fouls on him.
Generous game as usual. The task is defending and he obeys like a soldier albeit leaving Dmitrijev isolated.
Useful in the defensive phase when a blanket is needed on Atkobe’s counters. In second half he exceeds and ends up in the referee’s notepad (60’). On 66’ minutes he has Kalju’s best chance of the game that far, however his shot at Bekbayev is weak for the Kazakh shot stopper to stretch and block on the floor.
ARTJOM DMITRJEV 5
He was a striker but his old position doesn’t seem to fit him any longer. Starts confused and drops onto the midfield line leaving a hole up front. On 28’ minutes he is late when Kallaste’s puts a perfect cross to be tapped in. In second half he is replaced with Neemelo as Terehhov wants to gain weight and experience up front.
LEVADIA: 30.Pikker, 3.Rakhmanov, 4.Laitinen, 5.Elhussieny (Subbotin 88), 11.Teever (K), 17. Luts, 18. Kruglov, 22. Pikk, 29. Rähn, 38 Pecha (Saag 72)
Rezervë: 12.Shirokov, 2.Ojamaa, 10.Subbotin, 19.Peetson, 20.Martin, 23.Artjunin, 25.Saag
Golashënues: Luts 22
KRUSEJDERS: 1.O’Neill (K), 2.Joe Burns, 5.Magowan, 11.Robinson, 12.Caddell (Clarke 79), 14.Forsythe, 17.McClean, 18.Owens (O’Flynn 70), 22.Heatley, 25.Carvill (O’Carroll 90+3), 27.Mitchell
Rezervë: 21.McKibbin, 3.Stewart, 10.O’Carroll, 15.O’Flynn, 19.Snoddy, 20.Clarke, 24.O’Hanlon
Golashënues: Carvill 4
Ndëshkuar: Robinson, Carvill
Heliand Dema, Tallinn
në bashkpunim me Andi Kasmi (Pjesa e Tretë)
Një ditë vere e zymtë dhe me shi ka mbuluar Talinin teksa cdo gjë bëhet gati për ndeshjen e kthimit midis Levadias dhe Krusejders në nje A. Le Coq Arena thuajse të boshatisur. Hera e fundit që kemi qënë në këtë stadium, daton dy vite më parë, kur Kukësi barazonte 1-1 me Flora Talin me gol të Gerhard Prognit. Gol që i siguroi ekipit shqiptar kualifikimin për turin tjetër të Europa Ligës.
Krusejders vjen në këtë takim për dy rezultate, barazimin me gola ose fitoren. Nga ana tjetër Levadias i duhet vetem të fitoj për të kaluar në turin tjetër. Ndeshja e parë në Belfast pati përfunduar me rezultatin e bardh 0 - 0.
Dita e zymtë shumë shpejt kthehet në një fortunë për vendasit, pasi Krusejder kalon në avantazh që në minutën e 4’ me anë të Carvill. Aksion që nis pas insistimit të Paul Heatley pranë zonës, i cili me nje top te gjate pas shine të dy mbrojtësve vendas gjën të lirë Carvill, një nga lojtarët e afruar këtë verë tek Crusaders, që nuk e ka të vështirë për të mundur portierin Priit Pikker. Një goditje e rëndë për Levadian, të ciles i nevojiten dy gola për të kaluar në turin tjetër: një mision aspak i lehtë.
Në A. Le Coq Arena mbizotëron një qetësi vdekje. Të vetmit që dëgjohen janë rreth 50 tifoz miq, me siguri të ndihmuar paksa edhe nga ndonjë gotë birrë, të cilët brohorisnin e këndonin në kor. Daullja Estoneze, e cila “tundte” arenën përpara ndeshjes, tashme nuk dëgjohet me.
Minutat kalojnë dhe është gjithmon Levadia që kërkon me ngulm golin e barazimit. Krusejders është e tërhequr e gjitha në gjysmefushen e saj, në ruajtje të avantazhit, duke tentuar herë pas here kundersulmin.
Në minuten e 21’ është sërisht Cavill që bëhet protagonist, këtë herë duke shkaktuar një goditje dënimi afër zonës së skuadrës Irlandezo-Veriore. Një karton i verdhë i merituar, pavarësisht protestës së Krusejders.
Luts mer hov nga një distancë prej 23 metrash dhe shënon një eurogol. Një goditje fantastike e cila përfundon në trekëndeshin e majt. Një fotokopje e golit të Ergys Kaçes kundër Francës në Elbasan Arena. Portieri O'Neill nuk mund të bëntë asgjë vec të shoqerontë topin që I drejtohej rrjetës Britanike. Një gol shprese për Estonezët, tashmë të ndihmuar edhe nga ata pak tifozë vendas, kërkojnë të kthejnë gjithçka në këtë pjesë të parë.
Megjithate loja e Levadias ishte shumë e lexueshme. Topa të gjatë për sulmuesin Teever, i cili duke bërë pykën e kthente gjithmon pas tek kolegët e tij të cilet mundoheshin të çanin mbrojtjen e ngjeshur të miqve.
Teksa minutat kalojnë, lodhja duket ndjeshëm tek irlandezo-verioret teksa përpiqen në çdo mënyrë të ulin ritmin e lojës. Pas vetëm 2 minutave shtesë, arbitri gjeorgjian çon të dy ekipet në dhomat e zhveshjes me rezultatin e barabartë 1 me 1.
Një pjesë e parë aspak e bukur nga të dyja ekipet. Fizikisht Levadia më lartë, ndoshta edhe për faktin se kampionati në Estoni është në aktivitet. Në anen tjeter Crusader vijnë nga një tur parapërgatitor vere. Dukej qartë niveli thuajse amator i ekipit irlandezo-verior të cilët nuk arrinin dot të organizoheshin për te dalë ne sulm. Pa një ide të qartë loje dhe gjithmon duke humbur topin pas dy pasimeve, shpresa e tyre për pjesen e dytë është mbajtja e rezultatit në të njëjtat shifra.
Pjesa e dytë fillon aty ku përfundoi e para, me Levadian në sulm në kërkim të avantazhit dhe Krusejder duke u mbrojtur mirë dhe kundërsulmuar në ato pak hapesira të lena pas. Në ndryshim nga pjesa e parë ku estonezët luajtën më shumë me topa të gjate, në të dytën ata luajnë me pasime te shkurtra. Luts dhe Teever e gjejnë mire njëri tjetrin, por e kanë shumë të vështirë të finalizojnë përpara O'Neill. Minutat kalojnë dhe sërisht duket qart lodhja tek Krusejders, të cilët mundohen të shfrytëzojne çdo ndalim loje për tu shtrire në toke e për disa minuta çlodhje.
Në një kundersulm në minutën e 86’ Carvill pason sakt tek Heatley i cili shmang mbrojtësin kundërshtar dhe lëshon nje parabole drejt portës e cila përfundon në traverse. Ky do te ishte edhe momenti më i bukur i kesaj pjese të dytë.
Pas 4 minutave shtesë përfundon dhe ky takim me rezultatin 1-1, çka i jep mundësinë kampionëve të Irlandes së Veriut të kalojnë në turin tjetër, aty ku i pret Skenderbe.
Profili i Krusejders:
Një skuader pothuajse amatore e cila nuk u duk të kishte shumë lidhje me futbollin britanik. Fizikisht më dobët se sa kundërshtari, mbroheshin mirë por nuk kishin ide të qartë organizimi, sidomos për të dalë në kundërsulm. Aktorë shumë të mirë për të marre ndonjë goditje dënimi, teksa kundërshtonin thuajse çdo vendim të gjyqtarit.
Skënderbeu duhet të siguroj kualifikimin që në ndeshjen e parë, duke shënuar sa me shumë, mision aspak i lehtë duke parë mbrojtjen e ngjeshur të kundërshtarit. Megjithatë shanset e ekipit tone për të kaluar ne turin tjetër janë shumë herë më të larta se Krusejders.
Kuriozitet: I gjithë ekipi irlandezo-verior ka një vlere prej 350.000 Eurosh, aq sa kushton edhe kartoni i mbrojtësit Tefik Osmani te Skënderbeut.
We are signing out with this picture as the players of Rabotnicki celebrate their qualification and a duel against Jelgava
THE END in Skopje for FC Flora as they failed to materialise on the advantage from the first match. 2-0 for Rabotnicki and duel with Jelgava in the 2nd qualifying round
92' yellow card for Bozinovski for wasting time
4 minutes of added time to be played
90' Aloe receives a yellow for a foul
89' excellent last second tackle from Kams denied Anene his second goal tonight
86' Frolov lost his nerves and got a yellow card from the referee, Rabotnicki made their last substitution bringing in Jovanovski instead of Sahiti who had a very good match on the left wing
80' second change for Rabotnicki, Dusko Trajcevski replaces Marjan Altiparmakovski
75' first change for Rabotnicki, Ivan Mitrov replaces captain Baze Ilijoski
74' again Chuma in the main role, but this time Jürgenson cleared the ball from the goal line
72' Chuma Anene causes all kinds of trouble to Flora's defense, luckily for them, his shot was again off target
70' Rabotnicki players and the crowd claim penalty after a suspicious hand ball in Flora's box, the referee just waves away their protests
68' third change for Hurt, Aloe replaces Baranov
66' another good chance for Rabotnicki, but Siljanovski's header was off target
64' free-kick from dangerous position for Flora after Alliku was brought down. The shot went just wide
After the goal Hurt brought in Gussev instead of Logua and Flora opened up a bit, but so far to no avail
54' GOAL GOAL! and Flora is 2-0 down after a big mess in the box, Altiparmakovski tapped the ball in Toom's net
49' GOAL! Flora's defense finally broke and allowed Chuma to score 1-0
Start of the second half in Skopje, coach Norbert Hurt already made one change replacing Tukiainen with Tamm
END of the first half and Flora is 45 minutes away from the second qualifying round of the Europa League. Rabotnicki is dominating the game and the good defensive display by both Toom and the back four keeps the hopes for history alive
42' another great save by Toom after Chuma's shot from 20 meters
39' only the luck and Toom saved Flora from being 1-0 down. Check out Rabotnicki's chance on our FB page
35' what a shot by Siljanovski and WHAT A SAVE from Toom
32' excellent ball from Logua inside the box where Alliku and Tukiainen were caught offside. The goalkeeper of Rabotnicki then made a mistake gifting the ball to Flora but Sappinen couldn't score. On the counter attack Baranov with a world class tackle managed to stop Altiparmakovski from scoring
27' another big chance for Rabotnicki but Ilijoski didn't manage to change the direction of the ball and Mait Toom easily caught the ball
26' dangerous chance for Rabotnicki, but Vujcic's shot from 20 meters went just wide
25' first corner for FC Flora from the right side, danger cleared
20 minutes in and Flora is still not giving up despite the constant pressure from the hosts. Excellent work from the defensive line so far
15 minutes into the game and Flora "has parked the bus" and for now it seems to be working as Rabotnicki finds it hard to penetrate the defense
10' corner number 2 for the hosts. They are way more active from the left side where Cikarski and Chuma are causing trouble to Kams and Baranov
5 minutes gone and Rabotnicki has the initiative, but Flora's defense looks stable at the moment
4' good chance for Ilijoski, but his shot went wide
3' first corner for the hosts
Good evening from Phillip II Arena, the players are done with the warm-up and these are the line-ups for today's 2nd leg
This match report for is by Barry Ross Linton, commonly known as 'Baz'. Baz is a graphic designer (you can find his works and portfolio here at 'Barry Linton Design'). From London, he is a big football passionate and a great fan of West Ham United. Baz is a proud member and player of Rumori Calcio having debuted in an official game of Estonian football last weekend (Estonian Cup 1/64) .
All the pictures in this article are by Angelo Palmeri
LEVADIA vs. CRUSADERS 1-1 (1-1)
LEVADIA: 30.Pikker, 3.Rakhmanov, 4.Laitinen, 5.Elhussieny (Subbotin 88), 11.Teever (C), 17. Luts, 18. Kruglov, 22. Pikk, 29. Rähn, 38 Pecha (Saag 72)
Subs: 12.Shirokov, 2.Ojamaa, 10.Subbotin, 19.Peetson, 20.Martin, 23.Artjunin, 25.Saag
Goals: Luts 22
CRUSADERS: 1.O’Neill (C), 2.Joe Burns, 5.Magowan, 11.Robinson, 12.Caddell (Clarke 79), 14.Forsythe, 17.McClean, 18.Owens (O’Flynn 70), 22.Heatley, 25.Carvill (O’Carroll 90+3), 27.Mitchell
Subs: 21.McKibbin, 3.Stewart, 10.O’Carroll, 15.O’Flynn, 19.Snoddy, 20.Clarke, 24.O’Hanlon
Bookings Robinson, Carvill
Goals: Carvill 4
A cold, miserable and wet summers evening in Tallinn summed up Levadia’s game as they narrowly missed out on an away goal.
Generally in Tallinn when you see a pack of 11 British guys all wearing the same t-shirts, their names proudly printed on the back, running around like animals, you fear the worst. Fortunately, these Brits were sober. Crusaders came into this game with the advantage of knowing they had the away goal rule in their favour.
They had a perfect start with an early goal after 4 minutes.
A cheeky ball over the top of the Levadia defence found Carvill to smash home at close range. This was the worst possible start for the home team.
The pressure was on.
The travelling Crusaders fans were in good voice and certainly did not need require a drum to make their presence known. Familiar melodies of a Yellow Submarine and Elvis Presley's - Can't Help Falling In Love were well delivered.
Although, I’m sure one or two beers before hand helped lubricate their vocal chords. The Levadia fans with a more tribal, simple approach as equally effective.
Teever headed Levadia’s first effort over the bar on 15 minutes and despite the goal, the teams were looking well matched.
On 21 minutes, Carvill went from hero to zero, committing a cynical foul on Pikk just outside of Crusaders penalty box and received a deserved booking.
Luts stepped up and delivered what can only be described as world class. From 25 yards, he put the ball in the top left-hand corner. This was as good a free kick as you will see all season.The power and accuracy too much for O’Neill (GALLERY: the photo sequence of Luts' goal)
This was the stand out moment of an otherwise ugly first half of football. Levadia did enjoy some success with Luts delivering some fine balls in from the left but their play was direct to say the least. Teever was holding the ball up and leading the line well, but things had become predictable.
I had to glance down to the dug-out just to check that it was not Sam Allardyce chewing the gum, haunting me.
To help put some context on the game, the rain was pouring heavy during the first half making life difficult for either team to find their passing game.
Despite the Crusaders at times looking as organised as a stag party they tested Levadia’s uncomfortable looking defence who at times came across as nervous.
There were some strong challenges from Levadia but I thought a group of lads from Northern Ireland would have been made of sterner stuff. There were at times some oscar winning falls and screams from Crusaders, backed up by an equally dramatic bench.
Not a quality you would normally associate from a British team. Two penalty calls from Crusaders were never taken seriously by the Georgian referee who had a steady game.
The pre-season campaign has only just started for Crusaders and this was evident as they struggled to match Levadiia, their players stretching at every opportunity and collapsing far too often.
Despite this obvious advantage, Levadia failed to capitalise on this.
The home team certainly improved their football in the 2nd half and tried to play the ball on the floor with purpose. Luts and Teever continued to combine well but O’Neill was not really troubled enough. Saag who was introduced on 72 minutes replacing Pecha, succeeding with a couple of shots on target but, unfortunately, the cutting edge was still missing.
Crusaders hit the crossbar on a counter-attack on 86 minutes following a great effort from Heatley. Another ball over the top reminiscent of their first goal caught the Levadia defence flat footed but this was a rare moment flare for another uneventful 2nd half.
1-1 was about right for me.
Teever, the captain, lead the line well despite Levadia just lacking that finishing touch. Tonight it was Luts who caught my eye with some fine balls in the box and a world class free kick, he was my MOTM.
Thank you to Levadia and Crusaders, it was by no means a classic but the work rate was there from both teams tonight. Good luck in the next round Crusaders.
GALLERY: Crusaders fans and players celebrating historical moment
Like it or not, we witnessed something historical in Tallinn for Northern-Irish football: Crusaders FC made it through to the second round for the first time. Around 60 fans and the players celebrated soon after the FT whistle. Our exclusive sequence.
Crusaders FC will face Skenderbeu from Albania.
MATCH REPORT AND GALLERY
LEVADIA'S EQUALIZER, BEAUTY FROM SET-PIECE (SEQUENCE)
This match report for Flora' debut in the European campaign it's the debut of Barry Ross Linton, commonly known as 'Baz'. Baz is a graphic designer (you can find his works and portfolio here at 'Barry Linton Design'). From London, he is a big football passionate and a great fan of West Ham United. Baz is a proud member and player of Rumori Calcio having debuted in an official game of Estonian football last weekend (Estonian Cup 1/64) .
All the pictures in this article are by Janek Eslon from FC Flora Facebook page.
- Flora secure the 4th win of their European campaigns since 1994-95
- The last win dated back to 1998 when Flora won 3-1 against Steaua Bucharest
- The return game in one week in Skopje Filip II national stadium
by Barry Linton, Tallinn
The sun was shining, the cheerleaders were busting their moves, the Flora fans were loud and fierce in their tone. In the meantime was hot, flustered and still trying to log on to wi-fi. I gained my composure as I found myself looking down from the unfamiliar view of the press box and if I was completely honest, I was craving a cold beer.
From my understanding, both teams have a great tradition of developing their young players from their academies, with an ethos of playing the ball on the ground. (reminds me of my beloved West Ham United in the 90’s). Flora and Europe historically do not sit too well but, I like a good underdog story and I was hoping to witness a new beginning here at the A.LeCoq Arena for my debut report.
I was looking forward to this.
Flora set themselves up in 4-1-4-1 formation with Rabontnicki lining up 4-3-3.
The first half gave the crowd very little to work with, it was a tight affair. Toom was the first of the keepers to be forced into a save on 8 mins after an Altiparmakovski and Mitrov combination. It took Flora until 13 mins to retaliate with an effort. Jürgenson won Flora free kick, only for Sappinen to miss the target from a Frolov delivery.
Pressure followed from Rabotnicki but the Flora defense stood their ground.
A flurry fowls of and free kicks lead to the first Yellow being shown to Trajcevski of Rabotnicki. The midfield play was becoming choppy, but you could see the intent was there from both teams to play short, sharp passing.
Flora conceded an unassuming free kick 40 yards from their goal only for Ilievski to power his effort wide of the left post.
The home team enjoyed some success down the left-hand side but at half time only a blade of grass was separating these two teams after a credible first 45mins.
The 2nd half saw Rabotnicki showing the initiative by bringing on Anene for Mitrov to start. Something needed to change. On 50 minutes, a free kick from Vujcic resulted in a comfortable palm away from Toom to concede a corner. Rabotnicki were just starting to have their say on the game, they were about to turn the screw.
On 53 minutes, Flora brought on the lively Beglarishvili for Sappinen to add some fresh spark to the midfield.
A long-range strike from Frolov drew a comfortable save from Efremov.
On 59 minutes, Flora attacked with a fast break down the right from Kams delivering a peach of a cross straight onto the head of Gussev catching the Rabotnicki defense flat-footed. This was a text book, well-worked goal from Flora. It was game on from here. Flora could smell blood and were going for the kill.
The home team stepped up their game, spurred on by their fans who had somehow raised their volume another decibel.
Rabotnicki were shaken.
There was now a pace and intensity to Flora’s game that had been lacking until know. Alliku was a bright spark during this spell and lead by example, coming close twice in a 5-minute onslaught that would have made uncomfortable viewing for the Rabotnicki bench and their loyal fans.
Another change from visitors bringing Markoski at the expense of Sahiti.
A nice through ball on 66 mins from Beglarishvili to Logua was blocked and at this point of the game you could only see one team going to win this.
Flora fouled to capitalize with a 2nd goal during in this strong period of the game and Rabotnicki started to regain their composure again.
Further subs followed with Jovanovski coming in Trajcevski making way for Rabotnicki. Flora responded with Tamm supplying fresh legs at the expense of Logua, who had put in a solid shift for the team.
A Rabotnicki free kick on 73 minutes created a penalty box scramble and Alliku took one for team, going down after a foul from Ilijoski. This bought some valuable minutes was an opportunity to Flora to re-organize.
The last 15 mins Flora found themselves pushed back and feeling the pressure. Rabotnicki could sense the anxiety that was starting to creep into the Flora team. Rabotnicki grew in confidence and were getting closer to an equalizer.
A well-timed substitution on 80 mins from the Flora bench broke the play and pressure from Rabotnicki as Luigend was on for Šlein.
There was one last driving run from Alliku only for the cross to get caught after the feet of Tamm.
3 successive corners for Rabotnicki from the 85th minute required some last minute concentration from an otherwise well organised, solid looking Flora defense.
2nd half substitute Anene was strong a powerful for Rabotnicki and he looked a handful towards the end of the game. Toom certainly had more to deal with in the last 15 minutes, but he was in control.
This was my first time watching Flora tonight and I think they look a tidy outfit, I like them. It was a good all-round, solid team performance. From my report it's clear which player caught my eye, Alliku was my MOTM. Fast, direct and always a threat.
Both teams applied themselves well, but I would say the score line was an honest reflection of the game. I saw no evidence of history repeating itself tonight for Flora. If they maintain the some focus and commitment for the 2nd leg their fans will experience another night of European football at the A.Le Coq Arena in the not to distant future.
Thank you to Flora and Rabotnicki for an enjoyable night and good luck in the 2nd leg.
Next week we will have Deni Delev live commenting from Skopje!
And it's all over here in Rakvere! Just before the final whistle, Tjapkin walled with his body an attempt from distance.
The draw is obviously good for Hajduk who will play home next week. Sillamäe collects their first draw in European campaigns. They scored one goal with four clear attempts on target and generally showed a better form than Hajduk, who played better in first half and left a lot of empty spaces in the second half.
The live commentary from Rakvere is over, have a good evening!
The fourth official shows 3 minutes of injury time.
85' The first booking of the game was for Sisov, fouling Ohandza ready to run free on the edge of the touchline from Sillamäe left side.
Sillamäe are now finding space for quick counters. With 7 minutes to go and injury time, everything could happen.
82' CHANGE Hajduk removes Balic and brings in Maglica, another striker for the final siege.
It's eighty minutes of play and Sillamäe are still holding Hajduk on 1-1. In the second half they added value to their achievement of first half with another couple of chances. Hajduk look tired now as they cannot keep their side short and put pressure on Sillamäe. Spaces are often available in the middle for forays.
77' Ohandza had a go with a overhead kick on the change of front, but the ball did not hit the back of the net.
76' It's Janar Toomet's Sillamäe fourth best attempt as the former Kalju shoots from inside the box and Kalinic has to make another great save. On the developments of the corner, a scrumble ended with an assuming foul in the box, Munuera did not judge it as a penalty.
74' CHANGE Hajduk removes Rogulijc, one of the most positives and bring in Bilyy
There are between 80 and 100 fans who made their way from Croatia according to the information we received. Sillamäe fans are about 100 (two fans from Sillamäe, 100km from Rakvere).
71' Supersave by Kalinic! Ratnikov received a ball from outside the box on the development of a corner and shot upwards. Kalinic deflected above the bar for a matter of centimeters. Sillamäe's third best attempt of the game.
69' Silich tried a header assist in the box, but the giant, Milovic headed it out.
68' Russo's foray is well controlled by Mikanovic who helps himself with the hands. Russo complaied about shirt-pulling, Munuera was not impressed.
67' Hajduk almost there since a goal is scored when Munuera had already whistled an offside.
65' CHANGE Sillamäe pulls Vnukov off and puts in Ratnikov.
62' On the take, the ball is full of spin and power towards the second post, no one managed to head it.
ocals fans are now making themselves heard in the stand behind our improvised press area in Rakvere City Stadium.
61' Giorgio Russo by far the best player. Creates trouble and disturbance whenever the ball is in his zone. Earned a freekick now and about to take.
60' Dudarev in trouble with Ohandza. The Camerun striker gets free and shoots from inside the box, but not danger for Starodubtsev catching on the floor.
59' Off the target attempt by Rogulijc
58' CHANGE: Radchenko in, Maloku out. First sub used by the guests.
57' The ball has been flying in the midfield in the past minutes with each team trying to grab possession. Hajduk are preparing the first change.
Meanwhile in Kazakhstan...Ats Purje put Kalju ahead (72') and now FC Aktobe have lost their goalkeeper for a red card. Flora still leading 1-0 against Rabotnicki.
So far, a fantastic night for Estonian clubs.
51' Quick counter by Sillamäe, but the Hajduk defence managed to keep Kvasov and Silich away.
It is evident that the draw is too tight for Hajduk, already two good chances in less than 5 minutes with the same Ohandza who caused the penalty in first half.
49' Chance for Ohandza (HAJ), his foray in the box is finished with a shot towards the far post, but Starodubtchev deflects into corner. On the take, the same Camerun striker heads off the post from good position.
48' Harsh challenge by Mikanovic on Russo. The Italian winger has now moved to the left, the same position from where he assisted Silich.
47' Free-kick attempt for Hajduk from distance, well over the bar.
SECOND HALF ON! No changes and Sillamäe attacking from right to left.
Half-time whistle by the Spanish referee Juan Martinez Munuera. In the final minutes Hajduk tried to exploit once and again Sillamäe left side where Cinikas has been in troubles.
The only emotions of the first half were the goals. Sillamäe very pragmatic: 2 shots on target, 1 goal. In both situations Giorgio Russo's footprint, so far Sillamäe's best man. Hajduk have had more of the ball and the game, although they did not manage to kill the game. Their season preparation fatigue is evident when comes to be bright on the finishing piece.
Flora - Rabotnicki 1-0 - Gussev scored the opener on 59'! (63')
FC Aktobe - Nõmme Kalju 0-0 (64')
45' The fourth official shows 2 minutes of injury time.
43' Now Sillamäe take a bit courage and push Hajduk in their half for the final minutes of the first half. Cheminava was fouled on the midfield line, Dudarev will take the free-kick.
It was a quick counter brought forward by Giorgio Russo who crossed perfectly in the middle of the box where both Silich and Kvasov were ready to head. Silich was faster and punished Kalinic. 1-1
40' GOOOOOOOL!!!! Sillamäe pulls level!
39' Nice foray by Balic, on the cross, Cheminava puts into corner but Starodubtchev was about to come out and pick it. They didn't talk each other, another corner for Hajduk.
37' On the developments, again Rogulijc shooting at Starodubtchev. The Sillamäe goalie saved into corner from the closer post with his fists.
36' Caktas had a take on free-kick, deflected by the wall into corner.
35' Rogulijc received a good ball in the box but, disturbed by Śiśov, could not shoot properly at Starodubtchev.
32' Nikola Vlasic made Sillamäe's rear go crazy with a series of dribblings. He released to Maloku, whose shot was waled outside of the box.
30' Russo's take on a free-kick earned a minute earlier from the left side is on Kalinic face! The Croatian goalkeeper, disturbed by the sun, can only push it away with his fists. Best attempt of the game for Sillamäe, Russo is the most dangerous player for Sillamäe, placed on the left wing of the 4-2-3-1 prepared by Deniss Ugarov.
28' Corner kick for Sillamäe, Russo on the take. Right foot from the left side, the ball obviously curls out.
27' Nizic receives medical care as had a collision with Kvasov in the box.
26' Maloku curls from outside the box, but it's slow and easy for Starodubtchev.
24' Repeated attempts to shoot on goal from inside the box by Hajduk, but Sillamäe's defence walls all of them.
23' Silich attempts in the box, but his attempt to head the ball was affected by fouling.
22' Sillamäe have not yet produced any danger in the Croatian half.
Meanwhile in Kruoja, Lithuania, Kostantin Vassiljev's club scored what will probably be the winner, in injury time. Kostja played 64'.
Flora-Rabotnicki 0-0 (45')
Aktobe-Kalju 0-0 (45')
17' Hajduk are now letting ball and initiative to Sillamäe trying to handle their energies considering they are in pre-season.
15' Giorgio Russo, Italian midfielder of Sillamäe, caused an injury to Hajduk's goalkeeper Kalinic and the game was suspended for one minute. Was was trying to latch onto a long ball sent from the midfield line from set-piece.
14' Hajduk have no hurry whatsoever. A while ago a ball danced in the box but the Croatians where not effective in shooting at Starodubtchev from favourable position.
11' Sillamäe have tried to re-organize themselves after the shock. The penalty foul was actually caused by the same Vnukov who miscontrolled the ball in the box.
9' It's an uphill game for Sillamäe wearing the traditional Uhlsport white kit. The guests are in their away red-and-blue striped Macron kit.
6' GOOOOOOL! Caktas transforms the penalty with a delicious 'panenka'. Apparently the Hajduk nr.18 he is quite accustomed with this type of take, refers to Rumori a Croatian radio commentator. The Hajduk fans are singing without a break. We have seen some cars from Croatia in the parking lot.
Vnukov lost a ball in the box and in the developments, Ohandza was too quick for Cinakas who fouled him.
5' PENALTY! Ohandza fouled in the box, Spanish ref had no doubt in assigning the penalty.
4' Dudarev's take found accidentally Kvasov head but the flicked ball comfortably in Kalinic hands
3' Kvasov earned a freekick in Hajduk's half, probably first chance for Sillamäe in the box.
2' Sillamäe are keen to let the ball to Hajduk and wait in their half in compact lines.
1' Kick off weas taken by Hajduk.
- Team have completed all the preliminaries and are now about to line up on the field and kick this game off!
- It's a nice and sunny evening, almost clearly sky and 24'C, we're entering the Estonian summer in full mood. That's when the European Cups hit town, tonight it's the town of Rakvere, 100km from the capital, Tallinn.
Starodubtchev; Śiśov, Cheminava, Dudarev, Cinikas; Tjapkin, Vnukov; Toomet, Silich, Russo; Kvasov
Kalinic; Mikanovic, Milovic, Nizic, Vlasic; Caktas, Tudor; Rogulijc, Balic, Maloku.
- We're live from Sillamäe now! Both teams have completed the warm-ups and are now in the changing rooms to wear their match clothes on. We will give the line-ups in one minute.
Profile of Sillamäe Kalev here
Profile of Hajduk Split here
Hajduk Split is presented by Dejan Selisek, a Slovenian expat who lives in Tallinn and follow all the Balcanic leagues. Dejan's day job is web designer and administrator at Pro-Web Solutions.
He has been playing football in Estonia for many years with Jalgpallihaigla (IV.Liiga, 6th and last tier of Estonian football system)
Hajduk, is a Croatian football club founded in 1911 and based in the city of Split. The club's home ground since 1979 is the 35,000-seater Stadion Poljud and the team's traditional home colours are white shirts with blue shorts and socks.
However, for the return game against Sillamäe next week, they will play in Dugopolje in a smaller stadium (5,000 people).
They are one of the most successful teams in Croatia and ex-Yugoslavia, having won nine Yugoslav and six Croatian league championships, in addition to nine Yugoslav and five Croatian cup titles. Let's add to that three times reaching the Champions League quarter-finals and one semi-final in UEFA cup and UEFA Cup Winners Cup to get the better image of what kind of club we are talking about.
However, lately the club is far from it's past glory.
In 2012 club fell into big financial troubles which are still resolving. Last year they finished 3rd in Croatian national championship, 36 points behind their 'eternal rival' Dinamo Zagreb and 26 points behind Rijeka who turned out to be serious contender to Dinamo in seasons to come.
Despite all that Hajduk is still big favourite to advance from the clash against Sillamäe Kalev in the first qualification round for the Europa League.
We could sense certain amount of respect in Hajduk coach Burić first reaction to the draw ''Am I pleased with the draw? I will be if we pass. What is the most important now is to prepare well for all our future oponents, and to get all needed informations about them. As fas as the Estonian team is concerned, their championship is already on, and they are already well with tactics and game organisation. We will try to watch one of their matches live, they are playing home match this Saturday (two weekends ago with Flora - edit). However, we will also have an insight into their other matches of the season. I am careful, because you must respect any team today.''
Hajduk started their second part of preparations for the season in Austrian Steyr where they have played two friendly matches with local Austrian clubs before travelling to Estonia.
Lovre Kalinic is a very good and reliable goalkeeper. The engine of the team. The engine of the team is Mijo Caktas, everything goes around him and he is definitely the player to keep an eye on. Ante Roguljić is a new signing from Red Bull Salzburg, offensive midfielder and extremely goal oriented.
Another signing is Franck Ohandza who scored a goal in his first Hajduk game. This forward from Cameroon scored for a victory in the friendly match against Ried in Steyr, Austria some days ago.
Chris Johns, Belfast (NIR)
Levadia Tallinn were held to a 0-0 draw in their Champions League First Qualifying Round match away to Crusaders in Belfast last night.
The hosts looked the more threatening side throughout most of the game, but Levadia withstood the pressure well and will be favourites to progress when the two sides back in Tallinn next week.
Levadia boss Marko Kristal told RdS after the game that he wasn't too happy with the performance but he feels his side have a good chance in the second leg.
Levadia made one change from their 3-2 win at Tartu, with Taavi Rahn coming in for Ilja Antonov. Ingemar Teever was the lone striker in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Marin Pavel and Siim Luts providing support from the flanks.
Crusaders took the initiative from the off and forced a corner in the opening two minutes, aas Richard Clarke's shot from the left edge of the box took a slight deflection. A minute later, Rahmanov had to head the ball behind for another corner as the hosts predicted aerial onslaught took hold.
Levadia's defenders were looking a little uneasy with the directness of the early pressure they were under, with Paul Heatley and Michael Carvill looking particularly threatening.
Pikker had to be on hand to tap another cross behind for a corner, before he was called into serious action for the first time in the 8th minute. Andrew Mitchell's long range effort looked to be sneaking underneath the bar, but Pikker got up well to tip it on to the frame of the goal. The crack of the crossbar shocked Levadia in to life a little, with Teever's left wing cross tapped out for a corner before Marin could reach it.
Jordan Owens had a shot blocked in the 10th minute, before a dangerous Billy Joe Burns cross from the right just evaded Heatley.
Declan Caddell became the first player to be shown yellow in the 18th minute for a foul on Pikk. The home crowd voiced their displeasure at the decision, a theme that would run throughout most of the game.
Levadia's first chance of note came on 19 minutes, as Teever failed to head home from close range following an Elhussieny shot that smashed back off the angle. Levadia won a corner as a result, but they failed to do anything meaningful with the dead ball opportunity.
Crusaders began to apply pressure again and Levadia were lucky that Jordan Owens' header at the back post from a Craig McClean cross only made its way back across goal and away from danger. Owens was in again at the back post four minutes later, but he was unable to connect with Clarke's free kick from the left when he appeared to have been forgotten by the Levadia defence.
A somewhat fortuitous effort came Crusaders' way a minute later as Mitchell's attempted cross from halfway down the right wing sailed dangerously towards Pikker's goal, but the ball dropped just over the crossbar when it looked like the worst was about to happen.
Crusaders' full backs were overlapping with great frequency, causing Pikk and Laitinen problems. Levadia on the other hand were struggling to get a foothold in the game. They were just about restricting their opponents to half chances, but with their own attacking threat still to rear its head they were looking vulnerable at 0-0.
On 29 minutes Rahmanov's flick header from Luts' right-side free kick didn't even come close to threatening the goal, while at the other end Pikk had to be on hand to deflect Burns' cross out for another corner.
Teever looked to be in a good position on 33 minutes, but he slipped when controlling a nice ball over the top from Kruglov.
The game started to get a little cagey as the first half bore on, with the Crusaders crowd unhappy at the physicality of some of the Levadia tackles going in.
Burns was unable to find Owens with another direct ball over the top of the Levadia defence, before Luts tried his luck from range without success after Josh Robinson had given the ball away cheaply.
On 38 minutes, the crowd were up in arms again as Owens was shown a yellow card for a challenge on Rahn that left both players clutching their heads.
Levadia tried to make something happen down the right with Marin, Luts and Elhussieny combining but it was a familiar story as the move broke down before getting the ball anywhere near the box.
An off the ball clash between Luts and Mitchell went unnoticed by the referee before the man in black was forced to halt play when Pikk brought down the tricky Heatley on the right edge of the box.
The resulting free kick from Colin Coates was low and straight at Pikker in the Levadia goal, and proved to be the final action of the half.
Crusaders were looking lively, but they were struggling to find the last piece of the puzzle to get past Rahn in the centre.
The second half kicked off and Crusaders were straight back on the front foot. Clarke fired a shot wide from the edge of the box on 46 minutes, before Kruglov tried his luck (all too ambitiously) from 45 yards 6 minutes later.
Luts tried to dance his way into the box but was unable to pick out Teever before being dispossessed. Luts was sporadically Levadia's best outlet, but Teever's isolation in the centre meant very little was linking up in the Crusaders box.
The second half dropped in to something of a lull as Crusaders appeared to be running out of steam a little. Their very recent start to pre-season looked to working against them, but Levadia's lack of momentum gave them a chance to recharge their batteries.
A good chance came in the 60th minute for Crusaders, but Pikker got down low to save Burns' effort from the edge of the box. Burns was involved again shortly after but was once more unable to find Owens with a ball over the Levadia defence.
Marin was replaced by Antonov on 61 minutes, with Elhussieny moving out to the right.
Antonov had a quick half chance but his shot was easily blocked on the edge of the box after Elhussieny had played him in.
Luts and Kruglov combined nicely on the left but again failed to pick out Teever, who was being easily restricted by the two centre backs.
Pikk was booked to the approval of the crowd after bringing down Mitchell, before Carvill cut in from the left after collecting the ball from McClean, but his curling shot was too close to Pikker to worry the keeper.
On 68 minutes, Carvill again found good space to control the ball well, before hitting a shot from the edge of the box that once more found Pikker. For all of their quick and direct play Crusaders were struggling to threaten from within the Levadia box. Rahn was proving to be a sufficient barrier in the middle of a defence growing in confidence as the game wore on.
Luts again worked himself some space on the left and this time managed to find Teever in the middle. The striker was under pressure as he rose to meet the ball, however, and his header flew over the bar.
Crusaders' best chance of the second half came on 69 minutes as Heatley ran on to a good Owens flick-header behind the Levadia defence. That man Rahn was on hand again to pressure the Crusaders attacker enough for him to strike his low shot wide of the far post.
Another Kruglov/Luts combination on the left failed to find Teever in the middle two minutes later, before Owens hit a tired shot well wide from 25 yards out on the right.
Jordan Forsythe came on for Owens a minute later as the hosts tried to inject some energy back in to their play.
A moment of madness! If Crusaders were struggling to create any clear chances via their own methods, they would have been eternally grateful to Levadia keeper Pikker in the 78th minute had Forsythe been slightly more accurate with his resulting shot. Under no pressure on the edge of his box, Pikker inexplicably passed the ball to Forsythe, who was lurking just 20 yards in front of him. The Crusaders substitute was only able to lift his lob over the bar, however, perhaps as a gesture of goodwill for the gift he had himself received seconds earlier. Whatever it was, Pikker's blushes had certainly been spared.
A minute later and another Luts cross was sent into the box. Teever managed to flick the ball on towards Antonov, with it eventually running out to Elhussieny on the right. The Egyptian winger managed to win his side a corner, but again it came to nothing.
Rahn was shown a yellow card on 80 minutes for a handball, before Stephen O'Flynn became Crusaders' second sub of the evening, replacing the tiring Owens.
Teever was then replaced by Saag with 5 minutes to go, with the Levadia frontman getting a good reception from the home side for his work rate.
Laitinen was somewhat unfortunte to receive a booking three minutes from time for catching McClean after taking the ball, with the Crusaders man appearing in some pain before eventually rising to his feet.
Forsythe's energy saw him get past Rahmanov down the left, but Rahn was on hand to head away once more.
A weak Antonov shot from long range failed to trouble the hosts, before a good low shot from Saag was saved low down by O'Neill after good work from Luts and Pikk.
The referee's whistle brought the second half to a close and meant Levadia go into the second leg in a strong position. Marko Kristal bemoaned his side's ability to use the ball effectively after the game, and he will certainly be thinking about solutions between now and next week to make sure his side use home advantage as much as possible.
Crusaders' tricky wing men and overlapping full backs had caused the problems they were expected to, but they found Levadia's defence, and Rahn in particular, in good form. Levadia became wiser to Crusaders as the game wore on and will feel comfortable in knowing what to expect next time out.
Pikker: 6 - The stopper looked calm in dealing with a number of long range efforts, but was very lucky not to have been punished by Forsythe.
Pikk: 5 - Struggled to deal with Burns and Heatley at times and picked up a yellow card.
Rahmanov: 6 - Looked steady enough alongside Rahn.
Rahn: 8 - A rock in the centre of defence. Rds man of the match.
Laitinen: 6 - Again, struggled a little with the overlap but did well enough to prevent anything dangerous happening.
Marin: 5 - Not much involvement. Substituted in the second half.
Elhussieny: 6 - Tidy enough in possession. Didn't create much but was reliable on the ball.
Pecha: 6 - Dealt with any central threat well and moved the ball on to his team mates.
Kruglov: 7 - Worked well with Luts on the left. A few tidy touches.
Luts: 7 - Grew into the game and sent in a few decent crosses. Levadia's best outlet.
Teever: 7 Worked hard but didn't have much support. Looked isolated on his own. Deserved applause for his work rate.
Chris Johns, Belfast (NIR)
Taavi Rähn, Levadia centreback who joined the club this season from FC Flora
Taavi, you’re my MOTM, good performance…are you happy with the result?
Thanks…we kept the clean sheet, it’s a good result for the return game.
Do you think Levadia have a chance to pass the leg next week?
Absolutely, we will play on grass (at A.LeCoq Arena –edit) and our pitch is bigger. First game is always a bit nervous. I hope at home we can play much better game than tonight. So I definitely think we can win next week in Tallinn.
Marko Kristal, Levadia's coach since 2011, two national titles in a row (2013, 2014).
Marko, are you happy with the performance?
Not really with that, we made one thing right: we kept a clean sheet. It as a really physical game. We had really problems in the beginning at handling it. As the game went on we managed to come back. Our biggest problem today was playing the ball. We have to improve this, we have to play the ball more.
Did you expect Crusaders to play so attacking?
Yes, I did expect them to play aggressively. They didn’t do anything special, they just played as they usually do. This is their style.
Are you hopeful for next week, do you think you can go through?
Yes, of course it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be a fight next Tuesday as well. I believe in my team and I think we can manage.
Will you make any changes?
It depends, we have a league game on Saturday to play also, then we could make some changes.
Live match commentary
Crusaders FC (NIR) vs. Levadia Tallinn 0-0 (FT)
And it's all over! Levadia have managed to keep Crusaders out and will be favourites to progress. Their attacking threat was fairly minimal, with Teever working hard but finding himself isolated up top. Defensively Levadia will be very happy, and Taavi Rahn in particular was a reason for that. Kristal will be happy with the performance and will look to set his side up to go for it in Tallinn next week.
Look out for a full report and players performance ratings tomorrow!
90’ + 3 Kruglov tries his luck from 30 yards but his shot just evades the angle
Pikk finds Saag in the middle with a left wing cross, and the Levadia sub does well to turn and shoot low. The keeper is alert enough to get down low to it, however.
Rahn has been a rock tonight
4 mins added on
89’ Forsythe beats Rahkmanau down the left, but Rahn smashes the cross away
Levadia look like they will be heading back to Tallinn on level terms...
87’ Laitinen is booked for catching McClean after taking the ball. The crowd want blood, but Laitinen got the ball first before the man. McClean is up after looking hurt.
Stephen O'Flynn replaces Owens for Crusaders
85’ Teever off for Kairmar Saag for Levadia. Teever gets a good reception from the crowd for his hard-working performance.
84’ Another corner for Crusaders as the crowd cheer their side on
83’ Rakhmanau tries his luck from the centre circle but he sees his shot go harmlessly wide...surprisingly...
The Crusaders crowd are claiming for every decision.
Crusaders are starting to pressure again, making Levadia look a little edgy at the back
80’ Rahn is booked for handball after Heatley's flick on the left wing
79 Luts' cross from the left is flicked on by Teever with the ball evading Antonov, finding Elhussieny on the right instead. His low cross is blocked for a corner, which comes to nothing
78’ suicidal from Pikker! He passes the ball straight to substitute Forsythe 30 yards out, but luckily for Levadia his lob drops over the bar. What was he doing?!
76’ Jordan Forsythe replaces Caddell for Crusaders
Levadia are finding space wide but cannot do anything with it. Crusaders are certainly tiring now but are still posing more of an attacking threat
73’ Owens hits a tired shot way wide from out on the right
72’ Heatley is in behind the defence down the left again, but he has gone too early and is offside
71' Kruglov plays in Luts down the left again, but his low cross can't find Teever, who has been isolated in the middle when Levadia have played wide
70' Owens flicks Heatley through down the left, but Laitinen just does enough to force the Crusaders man to shoot wide of the far post. Good chance for the home side.
69' Teever gets up to head Luts' cross from the left but the ball goes over the bar with the striker under pressure
68’ Carvill does well to control a bouncing ball on the left of the box, but again Pikker is equal to the effort from outside the box
Levadia are managing to keep Crusaders at bay so far, but their attacking play has been very sporadic with their 4-1-4-1 setup
65' McClean gives it to Carvill on the left, and he cuts on to his right before trying to curl a shot from just on the edge of the box. Pikker isn't challenged enough and manages to pick the ball out of the air.
64' Pikk is booked for a tackle on Mitchell, with the crowd finally appeased
Levadia are starting to up the tempo now as Crusaders look to be tiring.
63' Anotonov shot is blocked in the box after Elhussieny tees him up
61' Antonov on for Marin
60' Burns shoots from the edge of the box but Pikker is equal to it down to his right
54' Luts tries to dance into the box but can't find Teever. Very few chances for Levadia, but they are dealing with their opponents...
52' Kruglov smashes over a 45-yard free kick. Ambitious to say the least...
51' Crusaders pressing again and win another corner
46' Clarke shoots wide from the edge of the box for Crusaders
And we're back underway!
And that's the end of the first half. Crusaders have been the better team and Levadia have looked a touch uneasy with their direct play, but it remains goalless. Levadia haven't really put anything meaningful together and will need to step up their attacking play in the second half.
45' One minute added time.
44' Pikk pulls down Heatley on the right edge of the box, but Coares low effort is easily saved.
38' Owens and Rahn come together in the Levadia box with both players holding their heads, but it's Owens who is booked and the crowd continue to go mad at the Icelandic ref.
36' Burns can't quite find Owens with a good ball over the top from the right, before Luts capitalises on a mistake by Robinson, but can only shoot wide from distance.
33' The match has become a little cagey, with Levadia putting in a couple of sturdy challenges, much to the ire of the home crowd. Teever's then slips after receiving a ball over the top from Kruglov.
30' Another Crusaders corner as Pikk blocks out Burns.
29' Rakhmanau's flick header from Siim's right wing free kick fails to trouble the keeper.
27' Mitchell's cross from way out on the right almost catches Pikker off guard, but the ball drops just over the bar.
26' Great chance for Crusaders! A deep free kick from the left by Clarke finds Owens unmarked at the far post, but his control lets him down and the balls goes harmlessly out for a goal kick. Levadia a little shaky at the back...
22' Heatley is caught offside from a Mitchell ball down the middle
20' Owens heads across the Levadia goal after meeting McClean's cross from the left. More direct wing play from Crusaders causing Levadia problems.
18' Teever cant head in from close range after a defensive mistake, Levadia corner
17' Caddell is booked for a strong tackle on Pikk in the centre circle as Levadi have a spell of pressure
14' Burns this time from the right can't quite find Heatley in the box
12' Kruglov's shot is blocked on the edge of the box
11' Crusaders putting plenty of pressure on down the wings, as good work from the tricky Heatley wins them another corner. Levadia clear though and Teever's cross from the left can't find Marin, but wins them their first corner.
7' Levadia almost go a goal behind! Pikker tips a Mitchell long ranger on to the crossbar.
4' Pikk receives treatment for a facial injury
2' Rakhmanau heads behind for a corner
1' Early pressure from Crusaders. Clarke shoots from the edge of the box, which is deflected for a corner. Levadia survive a couple of crosses back in.
- One change for Levadia from the 3-2 win at Tartu: Rahn comes in for Antonov
- The team sheets are in...
- The Levadia players are out warming up on the pitch in glorious sunshine here at Seaview Stadium, Belfast.
Match Preview by Chris Johns
Early team news
Crusaders - Midfielder Gavin Whyte is a slight doubt. Manager Stephen Baxter will not be at either leg as he is on holiday.
Levadia - Goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko misses out through suspension
What to Expect from Crusaders FC
If the 14/15 season is anything to go by Levadia Tallinn should be in for a goal-fest when they travel to face Crusaders FC in the Champions League First Qualifying Round in Belfast.
The Hatchetmen, Northern Irish Danske Bank Premier League champions last season, won by a 10-point margin and with a goal difference of +50, +26 better than the next best. More impressively, they scored in 36 of their 38 matches, 10 of which saw them put at least three goals past their opponents.
As worrying as those statistics may be, there is a glimmer of hope for Levadia at the other end of the pitch; Crusaders failed to keep a clean sheet in 26 of their 38 games, conceding at least two goals in 11 of those games. In a tournament where away goals count Levadia may need to throw a little of their caution to the wind and exploit any defensive rustiness their opponents may have accumulated during the off-season (the Northern Irish season ended two months ago.)
A whopping nine Crusaders players made it into the writers' team of the year, with manager Stephen Baxter taking the manager of the year gong.
Crusaders took a 3-2 victory in a friendly match against Welsh outfit Airbus UK on Saturday afternoon, with a Dairmuid O’Carroll penalty, a Paul Heatley 30-yard screamer, and an 87th minute goal from new signing Michael Carvill doing the business in a topsy-turvy match.
Manager Stephen Baxter's absence may also benefit Levadia, though he was missing this time last year as his side brushed Ekranas aside. It is understood that, as Crusaders are semi-professional, Baxter has decided to use this time to take a break from his position as manager at the club and from his own business dealings.
How Should Levadia Approach the Game?
The above friendly match was another example of Crusaders’ emphasis on attacking football, as well as their defensive frailties, and Levadia will certainly need to get a grip on the midfield to make sure they prevent service to the front two. Their opponents like to pump balls in to the box, so the wingers will need to be switched on to track back when necessary.
Sitting tight and hoping to sneak a draw or a 1-0 win is not likely to be an option for Levadia, and they may try to go toe-to-toe with their opponents. This approach may not suit the Tallinn outfit and much will depend on how they stop the supply to the Crusaders front-line.
A counter-attacking approach might be Levadia’s best bet, trying to punish Crusaders’ over-commitment to the attack, but the pressure is on Levadia to absorb their opponent’s attacking threat as well as posing enough threat of their own.
Players to Watch
Jordan Owens – 26 goals and 9 assists from 32 games is a cracking return for the striker. His partnership with Paul Heatley was devastating last season.
Paul Heatley – The 14/15 writers' player of the year bagged 22 goals and 9 assists to show what focus Levadia need to put on their setup. A good, scoring performance in his side’s 3-2 friendly win over Airbus UK on Saturday.
Michael Carvill – Another striker, Carvill is a recent signing for Crusaders and made a scoring impact in their 3-2 friendly win over Airbus UK on Saturday. Carvill is used to success, having won the double at previous club Linfield three times, and appears a perfect fit.
Model of Consistency
The fan-owned side are a good example of a patiently-run club, having spent the last few seasons slowly building their team before taking the title earlier this year. Manager Stephen Baxter is the club’s longest-serving boss, having been in charge for a whopping ten years.
Crusaders have had two cracks at the Champions League Qualifiers; their first attempt was back in the 97-98 season when they were knocked out at the first attempt by Georgian side Dinamo Tbilisi 8-2 on aggregate. Last season saw them fare slightly better, knocking out Ekranas of Lithuania 5-2 on aggregate (their only ever aggregate win in Europe in 15 attempts) before slumping to a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Brommapojkarna of Sweden in the second round. This was their joint best European adventure so far, having reached the Europa League second qualifying rounds in the 09/10 and 10/11 season, going down 5-3 and 7-1 on aggregate to Macedonian side Rabotnicki and then English Premier League outfit Fulham respectively. Crusaders have only ever won three matches in European competition (2-1 v Zalgiris Vilnius (h) 96-97 UEFA Cup, 3-1 and 2-1 v Ekranas (h, a) 13-14 Champions League 1st Qual. Round.)
By Deni Delev
Founded in 1937, Rabotnicki is one of the oldest clubs in Macedonia and only Vardar have won more titles than them. The best period for the team was between 1999 and 2008 when sponsor of the club was Kometal (thus the name from that period Rabotnicki Kometal). In that period they won 3 league titles and 2 cups. In season 2013-14 they went on to win another double, and last season they successfully defended their cup title. They play their games at the biggest stadium in Macedonia, the Philip II Arena which can accommodate 33 460 spectators.
Just like FC Flora, Rabotnicki is also a team that relies mainly on their youth academy, where most of their players come from and after a couple of good seasons are sold abroad or home. The latest such transfer was the extra talented central defender Darko Velkovski, who was sold to the champions Vardar for a record fee among Macedonian clubs (100 000 eur). But let’s go one by one. On the goal, we might expect to see Andreja Efremov who established himself as a number one for the coach Angelov since his arrival from Metalurg last winter. The „wall“ in front of him consists of Milan Ilievski, who is the most experienced player in the team with his 32 years. After the departure of Velkovski, he is expected to be partnered with either Leon Najdovski (a 20-year old defender touted as one of the brightest prospects in his position in Macedonia) or Kire Ristevski (occasional national team player), who was brought from KF Tirana and is expected to get advantage over Najdovski for the European games. Mite Cikarski operates the left full-back position, while Goran Siljanovski is on the opposite side. Both are in their early twenties and they are both explosive runners with good sense for assist. In midfield, coach Angelovski has Dusko Trajcevski at the defensive midfield position. The 24-year old just recently had his debut for the national team (during a goalless draw against Australia) and was on trial at Lierse during the winter break. His presence in midfield gives extra solidity to Rabotnicki’s defensive line. His partner in the center of the park is Stevan Vujcic. He is one of the best players, the brain of the team and most of the attacks start from him. Suad Sahiti is an excellent young player from Kosovo and he plays on the right wing position. His position is not so secure at the moment because Angelovski for sure will be cautious in the first game trying not to open too much. His competition for a place in the starting line-up is the 25-year old Milovan Petrovic. He plays in a similar position as Vujcic. The front line of Rabotnicki is probably their strongest side. Marjan Altiparmakovski is a 23-year old attacker who mostly operates on behind the striker and he was the team’s top-scorer previous season with 13 goals. On the left side we have another exciting young player, the Norwegian with Nigerian origin, Chuma Anene. Although he scored only 3 goals last season (was injured for two months), he is described as a pacy attacker who is very strong in the air duels and causes trouble to every defender. Baze Ilijoski is arguably the best player in the team and some kind of a club legend. This is his 4th comeback in the team after his last successful spell in Bangkok Glass where he scored 9 goals in 14 matches. His impact was evident as he had similar effect with Rabotnicki (8 goals in 14 matches) since his return last winter.
Similar to Norbert Hurt, coach Igor Angelovski nourishes 4-2-3-1 formation that can easily transform to 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 given the diversity of his front line players.
STREAK IN EUROPE
Since 2005-2006 Rabotnicki is almost a regular in the European competitions. What is even more, they have quite an experience with teams from the former Soviet block having played against the likes of Vorskla, Skonto, Lokomotiv Moscow, Inter Baku, Mika, Narva Trans etc.
A fact that doesn’t help Flora fans a lot is that since 2005 Rabotnicki has been eliminated in the first round only twice (both in Champions League qualifiers), against Inter Baku in 2008-09 and last year when HJK Helsinki got the better of the two matches.
They have reached the 3rd round 3 times. In Champions League in 2006 they eliminated F91 and Debrecen, only to lose to Lille. In the UEFA cup in 2007-08 they passed the two qualifying rounds eliminating Gorica from Slovenia and Zrinjski from Bosnia, but were unlucky to lose to Bolton from England (2-1 agg.) In 2010-11 they made it again to the third round of Europa League after thrashing Lucitanians from Andorra (11-0 agg) and Mika from Armenia, but the draw wanted them to play against Liverpool (lost 0-4 agg).
The most successful European season for Rabotnicki was the following one, 2011-12 when they had 5 wins in a row in Europa League, eliminating Narva Trans, Juvenes Dogana and Anorthosis in the process. In the play-offs, however, they were drawn against Lazio who mercilessly eliminated them (1-9 agg)
Coach Igor Angelovski was very cautious in the interviews when asked about the expectations. He said that the main aim is to pass the first round and it is clear that although they don’t know much about FC Flora and Estonian football in general, the success against Trans Narva from few years ago gives them reasons to think positive for this duel. The strength of the team comes from the fact that they play excellent team football, the chemistry is at a very high level and after wrapping up the season with a cup title they will certainly look to add to that success. The biggest minus for them is that unlike their opponents, they are not in competitive form and even though they won all the games ahead of the tie against Flora, they still might look a bit rusty.
Anyway, they accept the favourite role in this tie and are willing to show their worth.
The first round of qualifiers is giving the first chance for Estonian clubs to confront themselves for the first time with clubs from Nothern Ireland (Crusaders FC) and Kazakhstan (FC Aktobe).
In the latter case, Kazakhstan has been a member of UEFA since 2002 only (they were part of the AFC, Asian Football Confederation) however, since then, no Estonian club had picked up a club from the Kazakhstan Premier League. The honour will go to Nõmme Kalju
Makedonia: two precedents and good tradition for FK Rabotnicki in Estonia
In the Europa League, FC Flora will face FK Rabotnicki. For the Skopje club founded in 1937 it will be a second time in Estonia.
In the same competition (2011-12) they clashed with Narva Trans bringing 1-7 on aggregate. After the 4-1 win in Tallinn, Rabotnicki confirmed their supremacy in Skopje (3-0). Russian player Anton Yepikhin scored the only goal for Narva Trans against this club.
Before that, Levadia managed to successfully go through Pobeda Prilep thanks to a 1-0 on aggregate. It was the Champions League first qualifier in 2007-08. The useful goal was scored away in Prilep by Konstantin Nahk, now retired (his last season in 2014 with FC Infonet).
Croatia is a no go for Estonian clubs
With two unsuccessful precedents against Croatian clubs, the tradition is all against Sillamäe taking on Hajduk Split.
The overall balance is 4 losses in 4 games, 3 goals scored by the Estonian clubs against 8.
The precedents belong to Flora and Levadia. The oldest (vs. Dinamo Zagreb) saw Flora losing on aggregate 0-2 with a double 0-1 home and away.
It was the then 2001-02 UEFA Cup and a couple of years later, Levadia clashed against Varteks Varazdin. They lost 3-6 on aggregate.
Levadia made their European road hard already in Tallinn when they lost 1-3, the only goal was scored by Maksim Rotskov. In the return game, the Croatian secured the qualification after 70’ (3-0) until Vitali Leitan tried to restore pride in the final minutes with brace (83’ and 87’).
Kazakhstan and Northern Ireland: only national teams clashes
The only precedents in football between Estonia and these two countries are at national teams level.
Estonia clashed with Kazakhstan three times. First in 2001 (Kazakhstan was still AFC member). In Tallinn it was 0-0. A year after, in Almaty, it was 1-1.
The last game is from 2009, Kasakhstan-Estonia 2-0 in Belek. They were obviously both friendly games
Before 2011, Northern Ireland meant only ‘losing’ to Estonia.
In 2004 friendly game, the guest won 1-0 in Tallinn. A result that was repeated in 2009 in Belfast. In that Estonian side losing at Windsor Park featured striker Ingemar Teever, set to travel to Belfast with Levadia as Premium Liiga topscorer.
In 2014, at the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Estonia took its revenge toll.
First they won 4-1 in Tallinn (the largest victory of the 10’s) and then they repeated themselves in Belfast 2-1 grabbing their spot for the play-offs against…Ireland.
That game was also played at Windsor Park and featured among the starting XI for Estonia, Dmitri Kruglov, one of the Levadia players travelling to Seaview.
'Rumori' tries to bring coverage of as many continental leagues as possible.
For the SSE Airtricity League, the Republic of Ireland top flight, we are counting on the insider look of Keith O'Dwyer.
Keith has worked for several years at the Irish club Sligo Rovers as he was the Club Promotion Officer and Secretary. He is now a volunteer within the club and the match commentator for local radio, Ocean FM.
His blog on Rumori, 'Radio Ireland' brings stories and an inside look of the Irish football realm. Furthermore, Keith gives us information about the developments of Sander Puri, the only Estonian player in the Republic of Ireland at Sligo Rovers.
Keith has accepted to describe Crusaders FC for Rumori ahead of their clash in the Champions League first qualifiers against Levadia on the 30th of June.
The game will be followed live in Belfast by our Chris Johns who will provide a live text commentary. The link to the live text will be available in our 'European Luggage' section on the day of the game.
After three trips to the Republic of Ireland reigning Estonian champions Levadia will make their first trip to Northern Ireland after they were drawn against Danske Bank Premiership champions Crusaders in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.
Crusaders are recent opponents of Sligo Rovers.
We played them twice in the Setanta Sports Cup in the semi-finals in 2012 and the quarter-finals in 2014. In 2012 they beat us 3-2 over two legs to get to the final where they won the competition outright beating Derry City on penalties. Over the two games though I wouldn’t have felt they were the better side.
In the away leg in Seaview which is a lovely compact stadium nestled in between the streets of Belfast.
They have a great playing surface having upgraded to a 4G playing surface and they use every inch of that to their advantage catching Rovers cold. In the second led it was one way traffic but an extra time penalty saw Crusaders through.
The last meeting of the two sides was completely one sided as Rovers ruthlessly took the Hatchetman apart in both legs winning 4-1 in Seaview and 5-0 in the Showgrounds as the Bit O’Red went on to win the competition for the first time.
To be fair to Crusaders they didn’t have their strongest side out in either leg as they reflected the disinterest being shown to the competition by Northern sides at the time.
They are a very solid side who are capable of playing some lovely attacking football and have built their side around a stable core of players including the likes of Colin Coates, Chris Morrow and Jordan Owens.
oates in particular impressed the Rovers supporters who were keen to see him signed up given his displays at centre half. A natural leader, he is the bedrock of their defence.
Their league success has been coming as they have patiently built up their team and club including improving the ground to take them to where they are now.
Manager Stephen Baxter has been there since 2005 and in his time has won the league, the IFA Cup, the League Cup and the Setanta Sports Cup.
Their European results had been mixed but last year saw them progress through a round for the first time when they beat Ekranas from Lithuania 5-2 on aggregate before going out against Swedish side Brommapojkarna.
So it will be tough task for Levadia and from what I have seen of Crusaders, they will need to keep make sure that they don’t score first, they will have to cut off the supply to the wingers and also try and get in behind Coates.
Crusaders like many sides are more comfortable playing in their own surroundings so any sort of positive result and crucially an away goal in Seaview would give Levadia a great chance of progressing.
FC Aktobe have not played a single game at home this season during the KPL (Kazakhstan Premier League).
However, ahead of the clash against Nõmme Kalju, the club has been working day and night to have a lawn ready for the 2nd of July.
Heavy rains hitting Aktobe had delayed the works in the past weeks.
Sources of RdS have sent us a couple of meaningful and exclusive pictures (see gallery below - reproduction allowed only by quoting 'Rumori di Spogliatoio' or linking to this article).
In the first one from the 21st of June, you can see Aktobe’s stadium pitch completely without any grass, only the sand layer which is usually beneath the lawn.
In the second one, you can see garderners starting to lay the lawn. The picture was taken tonight (24th of June).
Will Aktobe stadium’s lawn be ready for Wednesday? It is a answer we will know soon since our sources believe that a UEFA delegation is set to travel to Kazakhstan on Friday to verify the status of the pitch and eventually give the nod.
If Aktobe lawn will not be approved by the continental authorities, the game will be played in the capital Astana.