FC Infonet and Sillamae shared six goals in a topsy-turvy encounter at Sportland Arena. Infonet took the lead through Oleg Valov after just two minutes, before Sillamae turned the match on its head with goals from Pavel Aleksejev and Evgeny Kabaev.
Manucho brought Infonet back level before being shown a second yellow card for a silly foul. Substitute Aidara then thought he’d won it with a late goal, only for Igor Dudarev to smash in a fantastic low drive from 30-yards.
Infonet began as expected, with Manucho leading the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Oleg Valov provided support from the right and Jevgeni Harin from the left. Jevgeni Gurtshioglujants began in front of the defensive midfield partnership of Konstantin Nahk and Vladimir Malinin.
Sillamae also began with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Kabaev leading the line, supported by Aleksejev, Jaroslav Kvasov and Stanislav Murikhin. Daniil Ratnikov and Olexiy Lazebniy provided cover in front of the defence, with Hiroki Maehara slotting in at right back.
The Sillamae fans were in full voice from the off, but they were silenced just over a minute into the game. Oleg Valov was played through on the right edge of the box, before slotting a low shot across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
Sillamae had hardly got going and they found themselves a goal down, but it was the perfect start for the hosts who needed to keep the momentum up from their win against Paide last time out.
Sillamae managed to regroup, however, and kept hold of the ball well in the early exchanges. An early booking came their way, as Ratnikov was adjudged to have dived under a challenge in the box. A painful card, as he will miss the next game against Levadia.
Infonet had the game’s next chance, as Valov slipped in Manucho, but his strike could only find the palms of Mihhail Starodubstev in the Sillamae goal. Valov was proving to be a troublesome early on, and he was almost released through on goal by Gurtshioglujants, but his touch was a little too heavy.
Sillamae were beginning to play a little more direct and their increased tempo hampered them a little, with Infonet managing a spell of possession on the ball. Harin skimmed a shot over the bar after a knock-down from a free kick, before Manucho was also shown a yellow card for a drive under the challenge of Dudarev.
Despite their seeming reduction in composure, Sillamae equalised in the 23rd minute. A mazy run from the impressive Kabaev saw him reach the right-hand by-line, before cutting the ball back for Aleksejev to slot home. It had looked like Infonet were the ones most likely to make the next breakthrough, but Kabaev’s strength and determination had dragged his side back into the game.
Sillamae seemed to take some heart from their goal, with Maehara dispossessing Elhi on the right, before charging forward towards the goal. His indecision cost him, however, and he couldn’t pick out Murikhin in the centre.
In a reversal of roles, Infonet now looked the more ragged team, trying to go more direct over the Sillamae defence, with Manucho being the intended target.
Kabaev was full of strength of trickery, and he looked like he was in the mood to inflict more damage on Infonet. Aleksejev picked up a booking for a late challenge, before Sillamae had an excellent chance to take the lead.
Kabaev again held the ball up incredibly well on the right-hand edge of the penalty box, before somehow managing to wriggle his way through to the by-line. His cross was met by the head of Murikhin, who diverted the ball back across goal, but it was excellently tipped round the post low down by Igonen.
A succession of corners then followed for Sillamae, as Kvasov’s header was blocked, before Murikhin was teed up on the edge of the box, but his driven shot flew just wide of the post.
Kabaev was at it again minutes later, as good work gained him space for a cross, which was swept straight at the goalkeeper by Kvasov. Sillamae’s attacking trio were certainly in their flow now, and it was only a matter of time before they took the lead.
Some neat play on the left-hand side saw Ratnikov fed the ball on the edge of the box, with him being able to touch a first time path into the path of Kabaev down the left side of the penalty box. Kabaev steadied himself before striking the ball across Igonen, who managed to get some contact on the ball, but not enough to stop it bouncing into the goal off the inside of the far post.
Sillamae had been buoyed by their equaliser, and fully deserved the lead for their reaction.
Infonet’s passing had gone to pieces by that point, and their game was severely hampered by some sloppy play, and an inability to keep hold of the ball in key areas of the pitch.
The half-time whistle sounded and, as has become habit for the hosts, Infonet made changes at the break. Harin was replaced by Aidara, and Semakhin was replaced by Malov, with both introductions proving to be key in the outcome of the game.
Coupled with the changes, the half time break seemed to stir Infonet, and they came out with a little more fire in the second half. Malov headed a cross down for Aidara, but his shot was blocked, with Manucho unable to convert the follow up.
Elhi was caught in possession of the ball on a couple of occasions, typifying Infonet’s overall performance, as an upturn in tempo was still unable to fix their quality of passing. Sillamae’s defensive midfield partnership were crowded Infonet out well, but the visitor’s own attacking threat seemed to be diminishing.
A dangerous Nahk free kick from the left evaded everyone in the box, and Manucho was just unable to make contact with the ball at the back post. Infonet began to step up the pressure, and Manucho had another headed chance that went begging after a good cross from Avilov on the left-hand side.
Yet another chance came Manucho’s way, this time it was Malov who found space on the wing, whipping a cross in, but the Infonet striker’s powerful header sailed disappointingly wide after he was given time and space.
Trevor Elhi was then presented with a great chance to equalise, as some good work on the left saw Gurtshioglujants play in Malov, and it was his cutback from the by-line that Elhi could only smash high over the bar.
Sillamae’s passing had now gone awry, with Infonet growing in stature, and after a couple of long shots from both sides, and Novikov replacing Aleksejev for Sillamae, Infonet got their equaliser.
A Gurtshioglujants free kick from out on the right was met by the head of Manucho, who made no mistake this time in planting the ball into the corner of the net. Manucho had wasted a couple of similar chances in the build-up to the goal, but he was forgiven here as Infonet looked to have the momentum.
Malov’s introduction had seen him provide excellent support on the overlap on the right, as Sillamae looked vulnerable to crosses.
Another Nahk free kick from out on the left was met by Aidara, but he headed over after colliding with Manucho. Aidara then had another chance as he cut in from the right, beating two defenders, but choosing to shoot when he had options to the left, with his shot being blocked.
Murikhin could only offer a deflected shot in response as Infonet continued to turn the screw. Nahk’s first time shot from outside the box flew over the bar, before Manucho dribbled in from the right, rode a couple of challenges, but could only find the hands of the goalkeeper with his low cross.
Infonet were managing a number of balls across the area and some blocked shots in and around the box, as they then had a claim for a penalty turned down when Starodubtsev and Valov challenged for the ball on the edge of the box, with the former accusing the latter of using his hand.
As Infonet continued to press, and Manucho was proving a dangerous threat, the red mist set in and he was shown a second yellow card for a silly tackle after the game appeared to get a touch niggly. It was a tackle that could be seen coming before the striker had left the floor, and gave Sillamae an unlikely chance of getting their noses back in front.
Aleksandr Volkov came on for Maehara as Sillamae looked to use their numerical advantage to full effect, and Kabaev came back into the game with a flick header wide of the post from Ratnikov’s cross.
As football goes, however, things don’t always go the way they should. Another Nahk free kick from out wide on the left bounced through everyone before finding the head of Aidara, who flicked it home with just a minute to go to give Infonet the lead once more.
It looked as though they had secured the points in spite of Manucho’s dismissal, but the fickle hand of fate stirred the pot one final time. Having had very few chances since taking the lead in the first half, Sillamae struck in injury time, as Dudarev picked the ball up 30 yards out and smashed a low shot past the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. Infonet’s joy had been short-lived, and a final chapter to the match was added right at the death.
Infonet brought on Ogorodnik for Gurtshioglujants for the dying second, but it was Sillamae who had the last chance as Kvasov headed over from Novikov’s cross.
The referee brought an extraordinary match to an end, with defensive deficiencies and poor ball control contributing to the outcome of the game, rather than any sort of real quality.
Both sides will reflect on an opportunity missed, but Infonet will be happier with their overall display, doggedly grinding out a performance after losing their early lead and going through some sticky patches in the match. Sillamae will be relieved that they came away with anything, having started the game so poorly, and going to pieces after taking the lead.
The result helps neither side in their pursuit of glory, and they both have work to do if they want to keep that pursuit a realistic aim.