FC Flora wrested control of top spot in the Premium Liiga with a 1-0 win over Nomme Kalju, who dropped from 1st to 3rd as a result.
Irakly Logua’s 79th minute strike, following a mistake by Kalju defender Alo Barengrub, gave Flora the points, and consigned Kalju to their second defeat in a row.
Flora began in their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, with Karl-Eerik Luigend and Andre Frolov protecting the back four, and Albert Prosa starting as the lone striker in front of Rauno Alliku, Zakaria Beglarishvili and Irakli Logua. Alliku and Logua were the wide men, with both players drifting inside to support a neat, central passing approach.
Damiano Quintieri returned to the starting line-up for Kalju, and he replaced Tarmo Neemelo as the lone striker. Wakui resumed his regular position behind Quintieri in his side’s familiar 4-4-1-1 formation, with Allan Kimbaloula and Janar Toomet providing the width.
Coach Igor Prins opted to start with Reginald in central midfield again, alongside Martin Vunk. Ken Kallaste was fit enough to resume at left back following an injury concern towards the end of Estonia’s friendly with Tajikistan on Saturday. Mikk Reintam was also fit enough to start.
Amidst a healthy and boisterous crowd, the match began at a good pace, with both sides playing positive football.
A low cross from Toomet in the 3rd minute was played just in front of Quintieri, with Stanislav Prins able to collect the ball.
Flora’s attacking midfield trio were seeing plenty of the ball, and their quick passing and positional interchanging looked like it would be a feature of their game.
Allan began in a tricky mood on the left for Kalju, winning a couple of early corners off Nikita Baranov. Wakui managed to get on the end of one of them at the near post, but his flick header was cleared after a brief moment of panic.
Kalju’s early play contrasted that of Flora, as they sought to get the ball out wide to the wingers, who were keen to run at their man.
A strange pass across his own box by Luigend almost put Flora in trouble, as Wakui bore down on Karol Mets, but he was able to clear the ball before the Japanese could capitalise.
Logua and Prosa were linking up well, playing some neat 1-2 passes, and carrying the ball forward well, but neither side were able to create any serious chances in the opening exchanges.
The game’s first real chance came on 25 minutes, when Quintieri executed a lovely through ball forward to find a completely unmarked Wakui on the edge of the box. The Kalju playmaker’s attempt to round the goalkeeper was foiled, however, and the ball was cleared to safety. It was the clearest opening of the match up until that point, yet no shot on goal had resulted.
Flora were then forced into a change, as Erkki Junolained replaced Kevin Aloe.
While Kalju’s direct approach gave them something of a threat on the counter, Flora’s neater approach was affording them more of the ball, and they had their first real chance 13 minutes from the break.
Frolov released Prosa down the left hand side, and he managed to beat his man to allow him a free run on goal. He appeared a little put off by the angle however, and following numerous attempts to spot a supporting team mate in the box, he unleashed a shot across Teles, which he was able to palm away. It was a fantastic chance for the hosts, and it seemed that Prosa’s indecision had stopped him from making the most of it.
Kalju were starting to look a little vulnerable at the back, with a few missed interceptions and misplaced passes. Beglarishvili was proving to be a tricky customer, operating as the go-between from midfield and attack.
Kalju’s attack had gone a touch stale, and the problems that plagued their attack against Levadia last time out were highlighted again six minutes before half time; Martin Vunk’s pass down the right found Quintieri in space, but he was given no support whatsoever by his team mates in the box.
They did manage a to create a half- chance a few minutes later, as Sisov’s cross was missed by Prins under Allan’s challenge, with Wakui recovering the ball, but his cross couldn’t find the head of Quintieri.
At the other end, Beglarishvili worked his way into the Kalju box before firing his shot harmlessly over the bar.
The referee brought the first half to a close, with neither side having made any real inroads or taken the initiative.No changes were made at the break, and the rest seemed to stir up Flora somewhat.
Just three minutes into the second half, Luigend sent Prosa through behind the Kalju defence, but once again his composure deserted him and Teles was quickly out to block the shot.
Quintieri then had Kalju’s best chance of the match, as he went on a driving run that saw him evade the tackles of three Flora defenders, before smashing a left-footed shot wide of the post from inside the area. It was a golden chance for the visitors, but the run seemed to have taken just a little too much out of the Italian striker.
Flora made their second change in the 54th minute, with Brent Lepistu replacing Luigend in the centre of midfield.
The early flickers in the second half struggled to completely set the match on fire. Wakui was caught dithering on the ball in the Flora penalty area as another Kalju attack broke down, but a second chance of the half fell to Flora shortly after.
As Flora broke, Prosa played the ball to Lepistu, whose attempted return pass was deflected in to the path of Beglarishvili, who had time and space on the right side of the box. Another good save from Teles denied Flora once more, as they slowly became the side looking most likely to make the breakthrough.
Logua saw his shot miss the target after Teles had failed to deal with a Flora corner from the right, before Lepistu was shown a yellow card for a foul on Reginald.
Kalju managed to find some space on the break, but Tihhon Sisov’s poor choice of pass saw the move break down once more.
Martin Vunk, arguably Kalju’s best player in the middle of the park, then played in Wakui behind the Flora defence, but the linesman denied him a goalscoring opportunity by raising his flag for offside.
Both sides were managing to find pockets of space, mainly in behind the oppositions midfield, and Flora’s attacking foursome looked particularly menacing with their neat interchange of passes.
Tarmo Neemelo came on to replace Quintieri, before Prosa was deemed to have strayed offside following some good build-up play involving Beglarishvili and Frolov.
Kalju were struggling for chances once again, but Allan’s deflected shot from outside the box after cutting in from the left showed that they were still hanging on to the match.
Martin Vunk then dragged a low shot wide after a good pass from Wakui, who felt a little aggrieved at not receiving a return pass when well placed.
Prosa received a yellow card following another foul, and possibly for his petulant reaction that followed.
As Flora looked to have gone a little flat, and Kalju were slowly managing a couple of half-chances, the hosts were given an opportunity that they did not waste on this occasion.
Alo Barengrub’s poor pass went straight to Frolov, who picked out Logua on the left-hand side. His driving run into the box allowed him enough time to strike a low shot across Teles, and into the goalkeeper’s bottom left-hand corner.
Flora had been the better team in the second half, but it was a gift from Kalju that finally saw them make the breakthrough. It seemed that at 0-0 Kalju were still in the game, but their lack of creativity was evidently clear once they went a goal down.
Juri Jevdokimov replaced Janar Toomet, who had again impressed on the right wing, but it was Flora who had the game’s next chance, as Frolov blazed over following a clever backheel from Junolainen.
Allan managed to create himself a little space again following a Neemelo flick-on, but his shot was once again blocked.
Logua was replaced after taking a knock, with Sander Post coming on to the field, before Karl Mool came on for Kalju in place of Wakui. The Japanese playmaker had once again been industrious, but had struggled to control the play that his position on the pitch demands.
Kalju became more direct as the game wore on, but it was to no avail, as the referee called time on the match shortly after Jevdokimov’s volley almost cleared the Old Town to typify Kalju’s display.
Flora’s patience and control of the ball had seen them through, and they deserved their win. Their attacking foursome had linked up well throughout the match whilst their back-line had kept Kalju firmly at bay.
The visitors were left to reflect on a second defeat in a row, and dropped to third in the table behind their opponents here and their previous opponents, Levadia. It seems that their 4-4-1-1 formation is effective against weaker opposition, but against stronger teams they struggle to create sufficient support in the centre of their attack. This fact has been made evident for the second match in a row and is threatening to see Kalju’s positive start to the season go off the rails.