Published on the 23rd of June
Updated on the 11th of July
Updated on the 13th of July
The Eastern Estonia club returns to Europe after just one appearance.
It was 2010-11 and they lost 10-1 on aggregate against Dinamo Minsk (BLR).
Nikita Kolyaev scored the only European goal.
Now the history seems to have taken a different turn as Sillamäe first beat FC Honka (FIN) in the game held in Estonia (2-1) and then went to clinch the qualification in Finland by scoring in the dying minutes of the extra time as Honka had pulled level on aggregate on 90' with Mombilo. The 3-2 loss in ISS-Vantaa stadium was enough to go forward on away goals.
Sillamäe had apparently lost strength after losing Martin Vunk (to Kalju) and Kassim Aidara (to FC Infonet). However, they are the only club from elsewhere in Estonia able to keep somehow pace with the ‘Big Three’ from Tallinn (Flora, Levadia and Kalju).
The start of season was brilliant. Sillamäe was on top of the table unbeaten on the eve of matchday 8. The loss with Kalju and a series of club and disciplinary vicissitudes have unsettled the environment making Sillamäe slip little by little out of the podium (they are currently sharing 31 points with another Tallinn act, FC Infonet). Among the vicissitudes was suspension of midfielder Maksim Paponov for matchfixing until the end of the year.
With the transfer window open, a replacement was brought with Spanish midfielder Micha, coming from Spain Tercera Division (4th tier) club Deportiva Minera. He debuted in the game against Levadia on the 21st of June and was judged positively by his coach, Ukrainian Vadim Dobiza.
Dobiza, originally assistant coach at the club, took the lead after the gaffer, Sergei Ratnikov, left the role for differences with the club’s president. Dobiza is a 73-year-old coach boasting successful experiences in Ukraine (Zorja Luhansk) and former Soviet Union top-league.
Good purchases during the winter window were the goalkeeper Mihhail Lavrentjev (however often challenged in the role by the other goalkeeper, Mihhail Starodubtsev) and the Ukrainian striker Jaroslav Kvasov (9 goals this season so far).
In defense they can finally field Zenit-grown Igor Tśeminava.
Sillamäe had also to make go with their main striker long-term injury as Vjatseslav Zahovaiko’s season is virtually over. Another great contribution in the striking line came from Evgeny Kabaev, usually fielded on the right flank and the author of the decisive goal that gave Sillamäe the historical qualification to the second round.
The most interesting element up front is the trequartista Daniil Ratnikov, a typical nr.10 having good dribbling, great shooting skills and ability to pick out a pass for his teammates. At the same time he is too prone to being booked.
4-2-3-1 was the formation used by Ratnikov and it is the one used by Dobiza in the two ties against Honka.
The interim coach as now been replaced by Sergei Frantsev coming from Russian third tier side, Kursk Vangard. In the past he coached Dynamo St.Petersburg.
Sillamäe thin squad (17 men registered for the domestic league) will not allow Frantsev too much flexibility unless the club will bring new elements from the summer window. Sillamäe tries to play for Kvasov also with long balls from the midfield. When they are doing well, flankers support can prove devastating for the Estonia top-flight minnows as well as for Ratnikov's incursions.
· The goalkeeper, Mihhail Starodubtsev, is the son of the club’s president Alxander.
· Daniil Ratnikov is the son of the former coach, Sergei Ratnikov. Sergei remained at the club as sport director.
· The club was founded in 1958 during Soviet time.
· Their home stadium is Sillamäe Kalev Stadium, however it is not adequate for European ties. Sillamäe played FC Honka in Rakvere town (92km from Tallinn, the capital) in the local City Stadium. The venue of the fixture against FK Krasnodar has not been confirmed yet.
· Last season they finished 3rd excluding FC Flora (most-titled Estonian club) from European cups for the first time in 20 years (Flora had a streak of 20 participations in a row since 1994).