Nõmme Kalju kept themselves in the title hunt with a slightly flat 1-0 win over Narva Trans. Hidetoshi Wakui returned from suspension to tap home the winner in the first half, as Narva finished the match with ten-men following Sheviakov’s late dismissal.
Kalju made a staggering seven changes from their defeat to Levadia, with Damiano Quintieri coming in on the left side of midfield in place of Eino Puri, shifting Janar Toomet to the right, and Karl Mool, seemingly given permission to take a break from military service, replacing Tihhon Sisov at right back.
Mikk Reintam and Henri Purg replaced suspended Alo Barengrub and Jorge Rodrigues in central defence, Fabio Prates replaced Martin Vunk in central midfield, Hidetoshi Wakui returned in place of Felipe Nunes in the trequartista role, and Robert Kirss started up front in place of Tarmo Neemelo.
Narva made two changes from their 0-0 draw with Paide. Ilya Osipov returned from suspension in place of the suspended Viktor Plotnikov, with Artjom Skinjov moving up front, and Vadim Mihhailov came in to replace Svjatoslav Jakovlev on the left of midfield.
Kalju began firmly on top, moving the ball around with pace and looking to attack Narva with venom. A second minute header from Wakui was easily saved by the keeper, and his seventh minute shot from the right of the box was deflected wide for a corner as Kalju pinned Narva in their own half.
Toomet was proving a menace on the right as he constantly beat his man for pace, but his deliveries were letting him down with his teammates well placed in the centre.
A couple of goalmouth scrambles involving Wakui came to nothing, and Toomet’s 12th minute shot from the edge of the box bobbled agonisingly wide as the hosts failed to capitalise on their early pressure.
Mool had a shot from the right saved by the keeper, and Ken Kallaste began to show his face with some touches in space on the left.
It took Narva 16 minutes to have any sort of ball possession in the Kalju box, and an 18th minute blocked free kick was all they had to show for their efforts in the opening exchanges.
The game began to open up after Narva’s mini-foray into enemy territory, as they were slowly nudging a few passes further forward and starting to forge some small openings in the Kalju defence. The hosts adapted and looked to break quickly, but with the caution the visitors were showing it looked to be a question of patience for the Tallinn side as their early dominance slowly faded.
Quintieri threatened to kick-start Kalju’s attacking threat with a strong turn away from Sheviakov down the left before seeing his cross cleared out for a corner.
Kalju seemed to have lost the support for the man in possession that they showed early on, as their attacks began to break down before reaching the Narva box. The hosts’ increased possession of the ball allowed them to stretch Kalju, breaking their ability to play their short-range passing game.
Osipov managed to work space in the middle of the Kalju half before surging forward and striking a shot from the edge of the box straight at Teles. They then saw a header from a corner cleared off relatively simply off the line, as their own spell of pressure began to grow.
Some miscommunication in the Kalju defence following another Narva corner almost saw Skinjov capitalise on Teles’ venture from his line, but again the hosts managed to hold firm.
As Narva seemed to be making more of a game of things, Kalju made the most of Avdeev’s trip to the bench for treatment on a head injury as they struck the first blow eight minutes from the break. Damiano Quinteri had wasted a good chance to put them in front on 35 minutes, but he could only lash his shot over the bar with the keeper stranded following a poorly dealt with cross.
They didn’t have to wait long for another chance, though, as Janar Toomet broke down the left hand side, taking the ball to the by-line before playing a low ball across the face of the goal for Wakui to tap in at the far post.
Kalju had stemmed the Narva tide and were now breaking into some good positions. Their play had become less patient and measured, focusing more on speed and width as the game made its way to the half time break.
After a changeless 15-minute break, it was Narva who came out and offered the first chance of the second period. Skinjov broke down the right, with his shot from a tight angle needing a solid block from Teles to see it wide of the far post.
The first yellow card of the match came in the 51st minute, as Toomet felled Osipov just inside the Kalju half.
Narva didn’t seem to have given up any hope of getting something from the game, hassling Kalju with energy and getting the ball forward as quickly as possible. Kalju were responding with a similar energy level, waiting patiently to make the most of any opportunities to unlock the Narva defence.
Toomet was continuing to find space on the wings, and continuing to fail in his pursuit of picking out a killer pass.
The game took on a more direct approach as the half bore on, with both sides looking to get the ball forward a little quicker in pursuit of goals. Wakui wasn’t seeing as much of the ball as he might have liked, and Kirss and Quintieri had faded as a threat.
The hour mark almost saw Narva throw a major spoke in the tyres of Kalju’s title threat. Fjodorov broke in behind the Kalju defence and his pace seemed to have taken him just clear of the recovering Karl Mool, but the Kalju right back did just enough to nudge Fjodorov off balance, and his low shot agonisingly struck the base of Teles’ right post.
It was a huge wake up call for Kalju, and Narva were left wondering whether their best chance of an equaliser had passed.
Kalju responded by replacing the ineffective Kirss with Tarmo Neemelo up front, and Narva brought on German-Guri Lvov for Mihhailov in attack.
Neemelo and Avdeev then both received bookings for some unsporting behaviour as the game continued to hang finely on a knife edge.
Kalju were struggling to assert any pressure on Narva in the box, with most of their possession being on the wings and hopeful crosses not finding their targets.
Quintieri struck a free kick wide in the 73rd minute, before a poor free-kick delivery from the right by Nunes summarised Kalju’s second half performance. It will have been a relief to them that they had managed to get their goal in the first half, as their attacking threat seemed to dissolve as the game went on.
Narva continued to press for an equaliser without creating a huge amount of chances, before their threat was effectively ended by the 80th minute dismissal of Sheviakov. His challenge on Quintieri deemed dangerous enough for the referee to show him the red card, and Quintieri’s afternoon was over after he was required to be carried off with an ankle injury as a result of the tackle, with Tihhon Sisov replacing him in Kalju’s final change.
Sissov almost snuck in behind the Narva defence just seconds after coming on, but the keeper managed to clear the ball to safety just in time.
Neemelo looked a little sheepish in the 85th minute as he managed to avoid a second booking for a foul on Avdeev. He then played in Nunes behind the Narva defence, but the keeper came out quickly to block his shot well.
Neemelo then inexplicably failed to connect with a Sisov cross/shot at the far post as Kalju began to take advantage of their numerical superiority.
Neemelo once again played in Nunes in the Narva box, but again his shot was well blocked by the keeper, before Kallaste broke into the box but his cut back from the by-line failed to find a team-mate.
Kalju had a late scare as Fjodorov once again broke in behind the defence, outmuscling Purg to get one on one with keeper, but the linesman adjudged him to have been offside when the ball was played and the game was allowed to come to a close.
Kalju probably just about edged the game for the pressure they put Narva under in the first half, but it was far from a convincing attacking performance. They may have lacked a few first team players, but they will still feel a little disappointed with the display.
Their neat passing game fell away as the game went on, and their support for each other on the ball became more distant, turning to hopeful punts into the box that rarely came to anything.
Narva had looked fairly dangerous at times, and Fjodorov will rue the chance he missed on the hour mark to bring his side back into the game. Their direct approach occasionally threatened to undo Kalju, but they paid for a moment of weakness in the first half.
The result keeps Kalju in the title hunt, and their attentions will now turn to the match between Flora and Levadia. Narva will take comfort from the fact that Tammeka lost 4-1 to Sillamäe last night, but relying on other team’s results will not be a tactic they want to employ in the final three games.