We take a step back to the 8th of February when Chris Johns visited Kalju-Flora game within the indoor tournament frame. The game featured, unfortunately, an injury to Damiano Quintieri that will keep him away from the pitch for a while (lenght to be confirmed).
Flora Impress as Kalju Continue to Falter
Nõmme Kalju’s stuttering pre-season continued on Saturday morning with a distinctly average 1-1 draw against a lively FC Flora.
Igor Prins persisted with a single striker attack in the form of Robert Kirss. Allan Kimbaloula started on the right flank with Damiano Quintieri on the opposite side. Karl Mööl partnered Fabio Prates in the centre of midfield with Wakui playing just behind Kirss. Ken Kallaste also returned at left back.
Flora lined-up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Karl-Eerik Luigend protecting the back four and Andre Frolov supporting lone striker Albert Prosa. Maksim Gussev provided support from the left wing with Rauno Alliku roaming inside from the right.
From the start Kalju kept up their tempo of recent games and tried to move the ball around quickly. Their play was a little more direct as they sought to get the ball forward, pressing the Flora defensive line deep and restricting them to knocking the ball about between themselves in their own half.
However, it was Flora who carved out the game’s first opportunity.
Zakaria Beglarišvili inherited the ball on the edge of the box after a corner had been headed away but his fizzing shot looped just over the bar.
Kalju’s early pressure didn’t last long and they were dealt a blow in the 14th minute when Quintieri went in for an innocuous looking challenge and fell to the floor in agony. After a few minutes of treatment from the physio he was helped off the pitch and checks have since confirmed a knee injury for the Italian striker. Janar Toomet entered the field as his replacement on the right side of midfield with Allan switching to the left.
Flora began turning the screw; Luigend’s long range shot from a free kick layoff taking a deflection on its way towards goal before Teleš managed to push it behind.
Kalju’s quick play continued to break down again, their tempo too quick for their own good. Wakui had little impact playing behind Kirss, who seemed extremely isolated at times, and their marking and pressing decreased as they became overrun by Flora’s, at times, six-man midfield.
The extra men in the centre of the park allowed their players pockets of time on the ball and negated any need to press Kalju with intensity when not in possession. As Kalju’s passing accuracy and creativity deserted them, Flora stepped up and stamped their mark on the game.
In the 22nd minute, Maksim Gussev cut inside from the left wing, skipped past a couple of weak Kalju challenges and struck a crisp right-footed shot into the corner of the net from 20 yards.
The goal followed the momentum of the game and rewarded Flora’s teamwork in both attack and defence. It was difficult to envisage a Kalju reply as the first half bore on and Flora continued to stifle them in midfield with their diamond-shaped attacking four looking continuously dangerous.
In true keeping with the unpredictability of football, however, Kalju conjured up an unlikely equaliser a minute before half time. Allan’s run down the length of the left side of Flora’s half was followed by a disappointingly weak looking pull back from the by-line, which trickled just behind the Flora defence for substitute Toomet to smash through goalkeeper Stanislav Prins and into the roof of the net. Rough justice for the team in green.
Half time brought a chance for Kalju boss Igor Prins to react to his side’s first half struggles.
He did this by replacing Kirss, the benefactor of limited support in the first 45 minutes, with Tarmo Neemelo. Tarmo Kink replaced Karl Mööl and slotted in just behind Neemelo with Wakui dropping back into the centre of midfield. Flora also made changes as they moved to a 4-2-1-3 formation with the impressive Alliku replaced by Rauno Sappinen who took up position on the right side of the attack.
Herol Riiberg came on in place of goal scorer Gussev on the left side with Martin Kase leading the line, coming on in place of Prosa. Roman Sobtšenko came on for Beglarišvili and sat just behind the front three as German Šlein completed the substitutions, replacing Frolov and sitting next to Luigend in the centre of the park.
Flora’s newly introduced front line started the second half looking ready to avenge the injustice that had preceded the half time break, Sappinen being played through by Sobtšenko in the 52nd minute and having his shot blocked by the onrushing Vitali Teleš. Kalju’s substitutions seemed to lack their desired impact as their passing continued to go awry and Flora’s attacking foursome continued to look dangerous. Sobtšenko and Sappinen were linking up particularly well, finding space on the wings and threatening to undo Kalju on the break.
Chances began to dry up for both sides as the game went on, however, as Kalju managed to stem the tide somewhat. Flora’s Luigend, having played a key role in the game, was replaced by Reio Laabus and Kalju’s Šišov and Prates were replaced by Mihkel Ainsula and Hindrek Ojamaa. Flora had a chance to win the game four minutes from time as Sappinen danced through to the by-line and cutback for Šlein who couldn’t quite connect with it and stabbed wide.
Kalju’s sporadic threat came from the wings but with no support offered in the centre, their attacks came to nothing. Wakui still looked a little rusty and an inability to create opportunities was again a cause for concern as they looked as though they could have played a further 90 minutes without mustering another chance, yet alone a goal.
The final whistle brought to an end a game which saw Flora suggest they could compete at the sharp end of the table this season. Their ability to rotate their attack without affecting their level of threat will stand them in good stead and they will hope to find that extra edge to be able to finish off games like these. Kalju on the other hand will not have been heartened by their own performance or the pain Quintieri seemed to be in after his injury.
They can’t afford to lose him for too long and, with Voskoboinikov trialling in China, you would be forgiven for feeling that they are slipping even further away from being ready for the big kick-off on March 1st.