Despite taking all three points from their trip to Kalev, and restricting their opponents attacking threat to virtually nothing, FC Flora will be disappointed that they couldn’t better the 2-0 scoreline they came away with.
They retained their two-point lead at the top of the table, but the match was seen as a chance to enhance their goal difference, and with Levadia making the trip to Johvi, they couldn’t afford to slip up.
Kalev began in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with key men Aleksei Belov, Gregor Aru, Hans-Kristjan Hansberg, Aleksei Naariste and Lasha Omanidze absent once more. Sean Tremaine Whalen also missed out, with his place in the centre of midfield filled by Ian-Erik Valge. Ivo-Henri Pikkor started up front, with Nikita Koger sat behind him, and Aleksei Heliste and Raiko Karpov on the left and right respectively as predicted.
Ionel Armean retained his place alongside Valge in the centre of midfield, as Artem Levizi continued between the sticks in place of Daniil Savitski.
Flora stuck with their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Maksim Gussev coming in on the left, and Rauno Sappinen on the right as Alliku and Logua had to settle for a place on the bench. Albert Prosa led the attacking line, with Zakaria Beglarishvili playing just behind him. Brent Lepistua and Karl-Eerik Luigend formed the centre of midfield.
Flora unsurprisingly started on the front foot, getting the ball into wide positions. They had the greater control in the early exchanges, and showed they were in the mood as they took the lead with their first shot in the ninth minute.
Maksim Gussev was sent sprawling by Valge on the left, with the ball arriving at the feet of Lepistu near the touch line. Valge couldn’t manoeuvre around the floored Gussev, and Lepistu was granted space to whip in a cross, which Savitski did nothing about, allowing Prosa to steal in and slot the ball past Levizi.
It was poor awareness from Savitski, and Flora didn’t need a second invitation to get the ball rolling.
The visitors had a golden chance to double their lead just three minutes later, as Luigend sent a ball over the top of the Kalev defence for Prosa to chase. The Flora striker couldn’t quite deal with the bounce of the ball, and sent his lobbed shot over both the onrushing Levizi and the goal.
Kalev were seeing little of the ball in the Flora penalty box, and they were wasteful when they did, as Karpov scuffed his shot when given space after Junolainen’s missed interception from a long ball.
Flora continued to press, but they began to find chances hard to come by, as Kalev blocked them off down the middle. Beglarishvili and Gussev were seeing plenty of the ball, and Flora were finding little pockets of space in the Kalev half, but clear sights at goal were drying up.
A Luigend corner from the right was headed over by Rahn in the 32nd minute, and with minutes to go before the half time break, Prosa finally had another chance to double his tally. Sappinen carried the ball on the edge of the box, before laying it right to Prosa, who had time and space, but could only smash his shot over the bar.
It was a disappointing finish, and it was to be the last action of the half, as the referee called time on a 45 minutes that had seen very little attacking threat from the hosts, but some hard-working pressing to prevent Flora from extending their lead as they might have been expected to.
The second half started in similar fashion, with Kalev defending deep and not allowing Flora’s attack to flow. Ten minutes into the second 45, Beglarishvili threatened to light up the match, as he picked up a loose header from Egert Heintare on the edge of the box, before cutting onto his left foot and unleashing a curling shot that smashed off the crossbar.
This was the Georgian’s last contribution to the game, as Rauno Alliku came on to replace him two minutes later.
As Flora grew increasingly frustrated, they finally managed to cut Kalev open again. Sappinen chased down a long ball on the right-hand side, before delightfully flicking it over the head of Heintare to put him in on goal. The Flora winger momentarily lost his footing, but managed to find his balance and sweep the ball through the legs of the onrushing Levizi to double his side’s lead.
Flora needed to take the few chances they were getting to try to wear down their opponents, and it seemed as though a second goal might be what they needed. They certainly seemed to be finding their flow a little easier, and the introduction of Alliku appeared to wake them up somewhat.
Karpov was replaced by Albert Anissimov on 65 minutes as Kalev attempted to shake up what had been a near non-existent attack force.
Flora continued to press, and a Sappinen cross from the right couldn’t find Prosa in the centre, before the striker was shifted on to the left wing to accommodate the incoming Sander Post, who came on to replace Gussev.
Prosa then had another good chance to extend his side’s lead, as he capitalised on some poor control from Savitski to race clean through on goal. His touch on the bobbly pitch let him down, however, and Levizi was able to block the effort he managed to get away.
A penalty box scramble then followed as Sappinen and Rahn both had shots blocked following a corner from Luigend. The two substitutes were then involved in a 3-on-2 breakaway for Flora, as Alliku’s cross from the left was knocked back to Sappinen, who danced his way into the area before laying the ball right to Post. The lofty striker couldn’t make it count, and once more Levizi was equal to the shot.
Kalev had begun to tire, and Flora were finding more pockets of space to run into on the break. The hosts were rarely threatening, and Prins’ tap over from Koger’s curling shot from the edge of the box was the best they could muster.
With 13 minutes to go, Prosa was replaced by Irakli Logua for the visitors, with Ando Hausenberg and Edwin Stuf coming on for Koger and Helliste for Kalev.
A brief spell of pressure from Kalev resulted in Anissimov seeing a close range effort saved by Prins, before Stuf took advantage of some slack defending by Mets to put himself through on goal, but the striker’s indecision saw his Flora counterpart recover and neutralise the threat.
The final action saw Luigend strike a last-minute free kick at Levizi, as the referee’s whistle brought the game to a close. It had been far from a vintage performance by either side, and the match had something of a processional feel to it as Flora had huffed and puffed their way to a comfortable, if mediocre, win.
Kalev appeared solely focused on damage limitation, and they will likely be content with only having conceded twice.
Flora won’t care too much about their lack of goals here, as they have bigger matches to worry about in the coming weeks, but they can’t afford to under-perform in any game as they look to take advantage of their title rivals’ participation in European competition. There looked to be no advantage based on this display, however.