FC Infonet survived a scare to eventually defeat Tallinna Kalev 3-1 on Friday night. The visitors took a 29th minute lead through Aleks Mones, but an Aleksei Belov strike against the run of play drew the hosts level on 61 minutes. An Aleksei Savitski own goal 13 minutes from time spared Infonet’s blushes, before Manucho smashed home with three minutes to go to seal the win.
Kalev began with a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Lasha Omanidze and Aleksei Naariste pushing forward on the wings to support lone-striker Belov and form a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Lauri Valji sat just in front of the defence to provide protection with Nikita Koger and Ragnar Rump deployed as central midfielders. Raiko Karpov was left on the bench, perhaps a consequence of having three bookings to his name already this season.
Infonet started with a slightly more adventurous, 4-4-1-1 formation, changing to 4-2-3-1 on the attack. Oleg Valov was given a fairly free role in behind lone-striker Manucho, with Jevgeni Harin and Maksim Lipin providing support on the wings.
Konstantin Nahk was partnered by Nikita Martonov in the centre of midfield, as Infonet’s need to rotate their squad saw Tanel Melts and Aleksandr Semakhin having to be content with a place on the bench.
A cagey start to the game saw neither side create any chances of note early on. Infonet retained the ball a little better than their opponents, as Kalev looked to break quickly and get direct balls forward and down the flanks.
Harin, Lipin and Valov all saw shots from outside the box fail to threaten as the first 15 minutes became a case of both sides feeling each other out.
A recurring theme in the match began in the 18th minute; Kalev’s Koger went down after appearing to be caught in the head by Harin, but nothing came of the incident.
Infonet tried to adopt a slightly more direct approach as the first half went on, with a few balls sent over the top of the Kalev defence to no avail. Manucho was struggling a little with his ball retention, but was the man to give the match its first real chance on 20 minutes.
His pace saw him beat his marker to the ball out on the left-hand side of the box, but his shot could only find the near post side netting.
Manucho then appeared to be on the end of another arm to the head, as he went down under challenge from Savitski. The referee, once more, gave nothing, and play continued.
Following a weak handball shout from Kalev in the Infonet box, the visitors made their slowly growing control pay dividends.
Manucho’s acrobatic overhead kick was blocked by the Kalev defence, and the ball eventually made its way out to Martonov on the right. He looked up and floated a cross in to the far post to find Mones, still forward from the preceding corner and completely unmarked, who headed easily into the back of the net.
Infonet had probably been the better team until that point, but the goal was certainly the first clear chance of the match.
Yet again, the referee had a decision to make about another apparent elbowing incident. Valov went down under challenge from Valja, but again the referee saw nothing amiss and allowed play to go on.
Infonet found some impetus from taking the lead, and an off target long range free kick from Lipin was followed by a great chance for a goal. Manucho powerful stride down the left allowed him to pull the ball back for Harin, but his strike found the outside of the left angle of the goal frame and went out for a goal kick.
The dramatic crack of the ball striking the post could have been a wake-up call for Kalev, but the optimism they had shown early on in the game was fading, as Infonet started to turn the screw a little.
Kalev were struggling to keep hold of the ball, particularly in their defensive ranks where simple passes seemed to be beyond their capability, their attempts to get forward were being resolutely halted by Nahk and Martonov, as their threat quickly diminished.
The final attempts of the half fell to Infonet, when Valov worked himself some space on the edge of the box, but his shot was parried away by the goalkeeper. Trevor Elhi’s shot was then blazed over the ball, as the referee called time on the first 45 minutes.
The half time break saw Infonet make a change; Harin was replaced by Aidara, who partnered Manucho up front, with Valov moving to the left wing as Infonet switched to a more conventional 4-4-2.
Aidara was involved straightaway as Infonet looked to kick things up a gear. A left-foot shot from outside the box sailed over the bar, before he turned provider by laying the ball off to Lipin on the right. His shot across goal was struck with venom, but it could only find the hands of the goalkeeper, who pushed the ball out to safety.
A fourth shout for an alleged elbow came after a Kalev corner, as Belov went to ground under a challenge from Avilov, and again the referee dismissed the shouts and let play go on.
A second Infonet substitution came on 55 minutes, as Jevgeni Gurtshioglujants replaced Lipin, as their shots on target tally remained lower than their control of the ball should have suggested.
Kalev managed a rare foray forward in the 59th minute, as Avilov was forced to block a shot from Koger; so infrequent was the threat in the Infonet box up until that point, Infonet might be forgiven for their complacency in the 61st minute as Kalev managed to go one better.
Following Savitski’s booking for dragging down a breaking Aidara, they managed to get the ball upfield to Omanidze on the right hand side. Valov and Elhi will not want to see a replay of their attempts at defending, as Omanidze danced between them both, before his shot was blocked into the path of Belov.
With a crowd of defenders in front of him, Belov struck a low shot across goal that Igonen didn’t see until the last minute as the ball nestled into the bottom corner.
Infonet were stunned, and their attacking deficiencies once again looked to be coming back to haunt them. They had, until the equaliser, seen most of the ball and had scuppered anything that Kalev had tried to throw at them. Their lack of chance creation had begun to linger in their play, and they had become a little wasteful when in promising positions.
Kalev’s goal seemed to wake both sides up, as the pace of the game stepped up a gear.
Omanidze was booked for a foul out wide, with the subsequent free kick by Nahk swung in and headed over by Avilov.
Koger was then given the time to drift unchallenged out to the left hand side, but his cross/shot floated wide of Igonen’s far post.
Infonet introduced Semakhin in the 70th minute in place of Martonov as they looked to try and shake things up a little bit more.
A beautiful cross-field ball from Nahk from the right found Manucho on the edge of the box, and his header down found Gurtshioglujants, but he dragged his shot disappointingly wide of the post.
Avilov began lingering further upfield for Infonet as they sought to put more pressure on the Kalev goal, and their reaction to being pegged back eventually earned them the lead once more, courtesy of a gift from the Savitski family.
In the 77th minute, Omanidze was given his final warning for another foul out on the wing, and Nahk’s free kick in from the left was punched out by Daniil Savitski. In a cruel twist of fate, his clearance could only find the back of his brother, Aleksei, and the ball dropped agonisingly into the net.
It was tough on Kalev as they appeared to be managing what Infonet were throwing at them, and the goal seemed to spell the end of any hopes they had of taking something from the game.
The goal wasn’t too big an injustice when considering the amount of time Infonet had spent with the ball and the positive positions they hadn’t quite managed to turn into shots on target. Kalev, on the other hand, had been largely anonymous as an attacking threat, and a draw would have been a generous result for them.
A third goal for Infonet almost came two minutes later, as Valov drifted in from the left-hand side, and unleashed a swerving, dipping right-footed shot that dropped on to the top of the angle.
Kalev’s response was to bring on Anissimov for Rump, and they had reason to bemoan a denied set piece opportunity nine minutes from time.
Elhi appeared to catch Omanidze on the right wing, but the referee chose not to give anything. The linesman, after a couple of seconds thought, waved his flag, but the referee chose to ignore it and play continued.
Infonet were not to risk their lead again, and put the match to bed three minutes from time. A throw from the left found Manucho, who wriggled through the Kalev defence, before smashing a shot into the back of the net.
It was a fair reflection of how the game had gone and was closer to what had been expected of Infonet’s attack.
Injury time saw Kalev replace Valja with Krissa, before the game’s final chance fell to Infonet’s Semakhin, whose shot was wide of the target.
The referee brought the match to a close and Infonet had the points. Their lack of a cutting edge going forward had almost made them pay a heavy price, but they were fortunate that Kalev had very little to offer beyond their solitary goal.