In the aftermath of the European cups’ draw, everyone probably hinted at Sillamäe as the less probable to make it to the next round.
Either for history reasons (in the only precedent they were badly kicked out by Dinamo Minsk) or for the traditional advantage Finnish teams enjoy (10 wins vs. 2 the head-to-head before this tie to be updated at 11 vs. 3), FC Honka was the favourite one.
However, history and head-to-head do not enter the pitch.
Sillamäe first conquered a win 'home' (2-1 in Rakvere) and then completed their success after 120 minutes of drama in Vantaa when Kabaev put it past Kollar to gift Sillamäe the historical access to the second qualifier on away goals (4-4 the aggregate count).
Meanwhile, Kalju had been suffering in Kadriorg to get better of FRAM Reykjavik.
After a tiny win in Iceland (1-0) they conceded two goals on set-piece that are already an alarm clock for Igor Prins on the verge to take on Polish runners-up, Lech Poznan. No one probably expected Kalju to suffer so much until the very last minute, as Teleś opposed himself to any Icelandic attempt.
Different story for Levadia in the Champions League. After squandering chances over chances in San Marino (1-0 win in injury time with Heiko Tamm winner - video above), Kristal’s men simply did what they had to do against a side which was inferior under all points of view: they scored goals, 7. The amount could have been greater if Teever wouldn’t have missed a few and Montanari (La Fiorita goalkeeper) would have not shown his qualities between the sticks once again. After all, he was a goalkeeper in Serie C, Italian third tier.
No one expected wonders from FC Santos Tartu, Estonian amateur club with ambitions to become a top one in few years. Leaders in the local Esiliiga-B (the third tier) and Estonian Cup 2013-14 runners-up, they were at their very first experience on the European stage let alone filling the gap with the Norwegian professionals looked like a mission impossible to accomplish. A 6-1 in Tromsoe followed the 7-0 in Tartu. The only historical goal, which gave Santos pride and glory, was scored by nr.9 Alar Alve.
It was a nice experience and, who knows, an appetizers for what might come in future years if Santos will make it to the top-flight (Premium Liiga).
Three clubs out of four are an outstanding result for the tiny football country (1.3 million people live here). 4 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses mean Estonia earned 1,125 points in the UEFA clubs ranking and are now positioned on 48th place.
The next round will bring big calibres as Sparta Prague (for Levadia) Lech Poznan (for Nõmme Kalju) and FC Krasnodar (for Sillamäe Kalev).
They are all facing season preparation at the moment and playing friendlies. Few days ago Sparta got easily rid of FC Basel with a 4-0 win whereas FC Krasnodar lost to Celtic FC 3-1. Of the three opponents, probably FC Krasnodar looks like the more affordable since they classified 5th in the Russian Prem’er Liga excluding Spartak Moscow from the Europa League.
Paradoxically, Sillamäe have now the ‘easiest’ of the opponents.
Levadia’s hopes to go past the Czech champions crash against last season’s aggregate result of Kalju vs. Viktoria Plzen (previous Czech title-holders): 10-2, which is the only precedent among clubs of the two countries.
Same story when comes to the Polish runners-up.
They were 10 points behind Ojamaa’s Legia. The only two precedents are relieving though: in 2009-10 Levadia beat Wisla Krakov 2-1 on aggregate, compensating the 5-1 on aggregate suffered by Tallinna Sadam against Polonia Warsaw. However, it was an extraordinary campaign for Levadia, rather the exception that confirms the rule than viceversa. And Kalju had something similar last season when they beat HJK 2-1 on aggregate. Can history repeat itself for two years in a row?
- Levadia vs. La Fiorita 7-0 was the largest win an Estonian club reached in the European cups.
- FC Santos Tartu vs. Tromsoe IL 0-7 is the second largest loss an Estonia club reached in the European cups. The record belongs to Norma Tallinn losing 10-0 to Slovenian side of Maribor: the now defunct club travelled 2,500 km by bus to Slovenia!
- Debut in Champions League for Omar El-Hussieny, first Egyptian player to join an Estonian top-flight club. He celebrated the event by scoring also his first European goal.
- Another foreigner debuting with goal was Fabio Prates (Nõmme Kalju) scoring the winner in Iceland against FRAM.
- Debut goals also for Heiko Tamm, whose netting gave a win to Levadia in San Marino; Evgeni Kabaev and Danil Ratnikov (Sillamäe)
- First European goals also for: Artjom Artjunin, Igor Subbotin, Alexandr Kulinits and Toni Tipuric (Levadia) Alar Alve (FC Santos Tartu)
- Hidetoshi Wakui scored his third European goal after his brace in Lankaran against Khazar (2-2 FT) in 2012-13 Europa League.
- Sillamäe passed on away goals to the next round. It’s not the first time it happens in favour of an Estonian club as there are two precedents: 2006-07 UEFA Cup, Flora past Lyn Oslo (NOR) after 1-1 on aggregate; 2012-13 Europa League, Levadia got better of Siauliai (LTU) after 2-2 on aggregate.
- Three clubs out of four made to the second stage, it is a record for Estonia as the precedents are all set to two clubs only.
- It was the first time an Estonian side (Levadia) clashed with a San Marino one (La Fiorita).