- Three wins from three for Flora keeps up the pressure on leaders Kalju
- Improved display by Paide still can’t earn them any points
- Paide remain rock bottom, three points adrift of 9th place
By Chris Johns
FC Flora left it late to secure three points at Paide, with goals in the final ten minutes from Tukiainen and Alliku sealing the win. Paide put in an improved display, but they were unable to find a goal with the game at 0-0 to put their visitors under enough pressure.
Lauri Valja and Rasmus Tomson made way for Sander roivassepp and Kaspar Paur following Paide's 3-2 reverse against Tammeka last weekend. Roivassepp lined up on the right wing, with Kaspar Paur on the left and Uwa in the centre behind striker Zahovaiko.
Flora made two changes from their 3-1 win over Parnu. Joseph Saliste and Gert Kams were replaced by Markus Jurgenson and Irakly Logua. Tukiainen began as the lone striker, supported by Logua, Sappinen and Alliku from left to right.
The opening exchanges saw few chances as both sides tried to adapt to a dry and bobbly pitch. Alliku had Flora’s first attempt in the third minute, squirming free of his marker on the right side of the box before striking his shot on to the outside of the post from a tight angle.
Kevin Aloe was overlapping well on the left for Flora, with Logua seeing plenty of the ball. Both sides were playing at a high tempo, with the hosts keeping close tabs on Tukiainen as the visitors moved the ball around quickly in Paide’s half.
Paide were looking to break through Uwa, who played a neat 1-2 with Zahovaiko before being crowded out as he made his way in to the box. Flora tried a couple of balls over the top of the Paide defence for Tukiainen but nothing materialised in the first 15 minutes.
Sappinen saw his half volley from the edge of the box easily saved by Niinepuu, but Flora seemed content to keep their compact shape and wait patiently for an opening.
The first real chance of the game came on 23 minutes when Jurgenson’s header from a Luigend corner looked destined for the back of the net, but Ustaal, maintaining his place on the near post, headed it to safety. Moments later, Tukiainen received the ball on the turn in the box, but Niinepuu was out quickly to block his shot.
On 28 minutes, Uwa managed to break free of the Flora defence down the left, but he was again crowded out as he attempted to break the area.
Flora continued to see a lot of the ball around the edge of the Paide box; Logua, Sappinen and Alliku were making a nuisance of themselves, but they were still to really split open their counterparts.
Paide were nearly gifted the chance to take the lead six minutes before the break, but Zahovaiko couldn’t keep his balance after dispossessing keeper Mait Toom in the penalty area.
Another great chance came Paide’s way a minute before half time, as Roivassepp broke clear on the left hand side, before opening his body up and curling a right-footed shot agonizingly wide of the far post.
It was the clearest chance either side had managed in the first half, and Paide were sure to be ruing the miss at that point. Flora almost punished the hosts straightaway, but a fantastic save by Niinepuu kept out Sappinen’s curling shot on the turn that looked destined for the top corner.
No changes came at the break and Flora picked up where they left off, keeping the ball well and knocking about patiently inside the Paide half.
Alliku’s 47th minute header from a bouncing ball in the box forced Niinepuu into action down to his right once more, before Zahovaiko’s looping header was held well by Toom five minutes later.
Zahovaiko was showing his uncanny ability to pop up in the right place as he managed to chest down a cross from the right that evaded Jurgenson, but his shot was blocked for a corner as Paide managed a good spell of pressure themselves.
On 58 minutes, Ainsalu was replaced by Frolov for Flora, with Kams replacing Jurgenson five minutes after.
The visitors had a good shout for a penalty turned down on 64 minutes as Tukiainen appeared to be wrestled to the floor just inside the box by Leetma, but the referee erred on the side of caution and waved play on.
Tukiainen was then surprised to connect with a shot after Kams’ cross managed to find its way through the crowded box, before Tukiainen was flattened by Niinepuu a minute later as they both went for a ball played over the top of the Paide defence.
With twenty minutes to play, Frolov broke the offside trap on the right side as he bore down on goal, but he inexplicably chose to square the ball to no-one in the center when a shot would have been the more likely option.
Tomson replaced Leetma shortly after for Paide, as the game’s tempo continued to remain high. Flora looked the more threatening, but Paide were certainly carrying enough threat of their own to remain in the game.
Logua rounded Niinepuu minutes later after collecting Sappinen’s pass but he was adjudged to have strayed offside. Luigend then found Alliku on the right side of the box with an excellent long pass, but Alliku couldn’t connect with the ball after cutting inside to shoot.
Another inch perfect long ball from Aloe this time found Alliku on the right side of the box again, but his cushioned pass for Sappinen could only lead to the latter dragging a shot wide of the far post.
The match was not carrying the feel of a 0-0, and as Luigend was being giving license to spread the ball around at will and Alliku was making use of the space he was creating, Flora finally managed to find a breakthrough.
For all of their possession and movement, it was from a set piece that they found their opener. A corner from the right found the head of Tukiainen, who directed the ball goalwards with enough power that Niinepuu could only spill it into the bottom corner of the near post.
If either side were going to take the lead, Flora had looked the more likely, and they were not about to stop at one. Sappinen’s low ball in to the box was met by an under-pressure Tukiainen, but he could only steer his shot on to the underside of the crossbar.
Puhke came on for Roivassepp for the hosts, before Tukiainen broke the offside trap to be foiled be the quick and strong Niinepuu.
Three minutes from time Flora put the game to bed, and it was a good goal to wrap up the points with. Logua’s high cross from near the left corner flag dropped perfectly at the feet of Alliku, who slotted home first time from close range to see his side home.
Both sides made a late change, with Gussev replacing Logua for Flora, and Butlers coming on in place of Paur for Piade, but the second goal was the final action of the match and Flora got their win.
It had been a much improved display by Paide, and they will have felt a touch hard done by at the end, but they couldn’t stop Flora’s domination of possession throughout the game. The visitors could have become edgy as the score remained at 0-0 for much of the game, but their professionalism and clinical ability saw them keep calm and get the job done.
RdS Man of the Match: Karl-Eerik Luigend (Flo)