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)