Levadia Grind Infonet Down in Laboured Victory
Levadia Tallinn secured a somewhat flattering 3-0 victory over FC Infonet on Matchday 7, following a goalless first 75 minutes in which neither side looked capable of making the breakthrough.
The poor weather conditions contributed to the opening goal, as an Artjom Artjunin free kick, which was struck low across the wet plastic surface, was spilled into the net by Infonet keeper Matvei Igonen in the 76th minute.
The goal proved to be the game’s decisive moment as Igor Subbotin and substitute Ingemar Teever then went on to add two more before the final whistle, as Infonet were unable to respond.
Levadia made one change from their 1-1 draw with Flora, and set up in an expected fashion; Arsenij Buinickij replaced Teever in attack, partnering Artur Rättel in a traditional 4-4-2 formation.
Infonet, again, left striker Aidara on the bench, starting with Maksim Lipin and Jevgeni Harin either side of striker Manucho. Oleg Valov lined-up just behind Manucho with the pair often swapping places throughout the game. Alexander Semakhin returned at right-back in place of Aleks Mones.
The first half saw little quality in either side’s attacking play. Levadia saw more of the ball but a stubborn Infonet rear-guard blunted any threat they posed. The plastic pitch was drenched with Baltic rain and helped to take coherent passing beyond the grasp of both sides.
Infonet’s quick counter attacking game had little effect, as was the case for Levadia’s slightly more controlled approach, as they were forced to play from side to side, unable to effectively move through the Infonet lines.
Infonet’s defensive midfield partnership of Konstantin Nahk and Tanel Melts helped stifle their opposition, and Levadia grew impatient at times as long, aimless balls crept into their game.
Aleksei Jahhimovitsh was booked for a cynical tackle in the 24th minute.
A couple of weak shouts for a penalty came and went for Levadia as they began to work their way into the Infonet penalty area a little more. The final ball constantly evaded them, however, as the first half stumbled to an anti-climactic end.
The half’s best chance fell to Levadia right before the whistle. A lovely cross from the left by Omar Elhussieny was expertly brought down by Rättel, who turned and smashed a shot goalwards. Unluckily for him, Igonen was equal to it and turned it round the post.
Levadia made a change at the break; Vladislav Ivanov replaced Elhussieny on the left wing as they sought to shake things up a little.
The second half saw the match step up a gear. Two minutes after the restart, Harin robbed Artur Pikk of the ball on the right, before working it inside to Tanel Melts. The Infonet midfielder steadied himself before curling a right-footed shot just wide of the keeper’s left-hand post.
Three minutes later, Infonet were appealing for a penalty. Vladimir Avilov flicked the ball over his head on the edge of the box and turned to take it goalwards. His theatrical fall was dismissed by the referee, however, and play continued.
Manucho then went sprawling to the turf after seemingly being caught by Vukobratovic. The referee saw enough to give a foul, but not to give the Levadia midfielder a second yellow and his marching orders.
Levadia were beginning to get into their groove a little more, with Rättel, Subbotin and Buinickij linking up well on the right-hand side, but they were still finding it difficult to break Infonet down.
Ilja Antonov was booked in the 55th minute after catching Melts in the face, and he was quickly followed into the book by Infonet’s Semakhin for a high boot.
Infonet introduced Aidara for Valov in their own attempt to shake up their attack which, up until that point, had been even less inspiring than Levadia’s.
A couple of pot-shots from Levadia followed before their first decent chance of the second half presented itself. A corner from the left was met by an unmarked Maksim Podholjuzin, but he could only glance his header wide of the post.
Buinickij was replaced by Teever in the 64th minute for Levadia, as their passing continued to go astray, and this was epitomised by a number of poor crosses into the Infonet box.
Another long-range Levadia shot, this time from Artjunin, sailed harmlessly wide before both sides saw another man apiece go into the book; Manucho’s high tackle was deemed reckless by the referee, as was a challenge by Levadia’s Pikk.
It seemed increasingly likely that the game could only be decided by something special or something fortuitous. That moment almost came in the 72nd minute after Infonet’s Elhi saw his header from a Harin cross tipped around the post. The resulting corner was whipped in by Melts before bouncing on top of the crossbar.
Levadia had had their feathers ruffled and they used that warning as a catalyst for finally making the breakthrough. 14 minutes from time, substitute Teever was bundled over on the edge of the box by Melts, providing Levadia with a free kick in a dangerous position.
Artjunin stepped up to smash a low shot across the wet turf towards Igonen in the Infonet goal. The shot was not particularly well-placed, but Igonen failed to get sufficient weight behind it, and the ball squirmed through his palms and into the back of the net.
Before the goal, the game had had 0-0 written all over it, and the strike came as a killer blow to Infonet, who had looked increasingly devoid of ideas and content to see the game out as a stalemate.
Levadia had their tails up now, as Rättel dribbled the ball the length of the Infonet half before smashing his shot just over the crossbar.
Infonet brought on Mones for Melts as they looked to try and respond, but the game was put to bed just moments later in the 78th minute, as a Levadia corner from the left was played to Artjunin on the edge of the box. Reminiscent of his free kick earlier in the half, he struck the ball low through a crowd of players, with Subbotin getting a slight touch, before it flew into the back of the net. Subbotin claimed the goal but it was Artjunin’s strike that did most of the damage.
Infonet offered a couple of brief chances as Mones smashed over from a Semakhin drag-back, and Manucho headed harmlessly over, but it was all in vain as Levadia finished the job in the final minute.
Following the introduction of Raudsepp for Antonov, Levadia played the ball up towards Rättel, who got his head to the ball to play it to Teever. The pair found themselves in a two-on-two situation with the Infonet defence, and played a 1-2 that released Teever through on goal. The striker strode forward before the slotting the ball past Igonen to make it 3-0. Job done.
The referee brought to an end a match that had rarely looked like seeing three goals, let alone one. Levadia had huffed and puffed, and they had struggled to break down Infonet for large parts of the game.
Infonet had been no better as their direct game was stopped in its tracks time and time again. A set piece goal or a mistake had looked like the only thing that would open either defence up, and this proved to be correct.
The score was a touch unfair in Infonet, who had defended well to restrict Levadia for most of the game. However, their own attacking deficiencies shone through once they went a goal down, and they were never going to recover.
The result stretches Levadia’s unbeaten run to 6 matches, but their lack of fluency will not fill their fans with confidence. Infonet have been brought back down to earth with this result, and their lack of firepower was once more highlighted.
Neither side will be proud of their performance, but Levadia’s ability to force the issue by whatever means necessary gave us a glimmer of their ability to grind out a result, a quality they may very well need if they continue in this manner.