Flora kept their place at the top of the Premium Liiga with an unconvincing 1-0 win over a spirited Tammeka Tartu side. Sander Post, starting in place of Albert Prosa, scored the decisive goal in the 13th minute, but Tammeka had a wonderful chance to equalise in stoppage time, as Kristjan Tiirik’s 25-yard strike cannoned back off the crossbar.
Flora made a couple of changes from their win over Nõmme Kalju. Post started as the lone striker, with Maksim Gussev starting in place of Rauno Alliku. Brent Lepistu partnered Andre Frolov in the centre of midfield, and there were also starts for Mait Toom between the posts and Erkki Junolainen at left back.
Tammeka’s 4-4-1-1 formation, changing to 4-2-3-1 in attack, saw Tiirik start as their lone striker, with Mikk Valtna floating behind him. Marek Naal, Martin Miller, Reio Laabus and Geir-Kristjan Suurpere formed the midfield from left to right, with Valeri Shabanov, Tauno Tekko, Kevin Anderson and Andre Paju across the back.
Flora started with expected pace and pressure, seeing more of the ball than their counterparts. The first chance came after five minutes, but Logua’s attempted lob was never troubling the back of the net.
Tammeka had a chance of their own five minutes later, as Tiirik found himself in behind the Flora defence with keeper Toom a full postcode away from his line. Tiirik’s attempted chip could only find the head of Toom, however, and the Flora stopper managed to nod the ball out for a throw-in.
At the other end, Beglarishvili breached the Tammeka defence, rounded the goalkeeper but was thwarted on the line by Paju, who had recovered well to temporarily prevent his side going a goal down.
Logua seemed to have been buoyed by his winner last week against Kalju, as his early running was causing Tammeka problems, not least in the 13th minute when he found himself space enough on the left to send a lovely cross in towards Post. The towering striker got in front of his man and, with the outside of his right foot, diverted the ball into the far corner to give the hosts an expected early lead.
Flora’s early tempo had certainly merited the opener, and they looked in the mood for more. A goalmouth scramble a minute after the goal gave Post the chance to get his, and his side’s, second goal. His composure deserted him, however, and he could only hook the ball wide of the post from close range.
Flora’s superior composure and control of the ball was clearly evident, as Tammeka struggled to string more than a couple of passes together. The visitor’s direct wing approach wasn’t quite clicking, and they surrendered possession too cheaply on a number of occasions.
The lone striker was left isolated far too often, as their defensive approach meant an increased wait for support to move forward. Flora weren’t forced to commit forward in numbers, with adequate defensive cover at the ready to quash any Tammeka breaks.
Lepistu’s ball over the Tammeka defence again found the marauding Logua, but the in-form winger couldn’t pick out Post in the centre. Logua again found space on the left minutes later, with Beglarishvili’s shot from Logua’s subsequent cross blocked.
Tammeka began to try long balls forward towards Tiirik, but again they were easily thwarted by Mets and Rähn in the heart of the Flora defence.
Chances began to thin out slightly, as both sides settled into a rhythm, and Tammeka defended in numbers on the edge of the box. Frolov managed to unleash a drive from 25 yards out in the 33rd minute, but the shot had too much power and flew just over the crossbar.
Naal tried his luck with a pot shot from the left edge of the area, but the quality of his strike was severely lacking, and the ball floundered harmlessly wide of the near post.
Logua’s cross two minutes later was headed down by Post, but Beglarishvili couldn’t quite connect with it, as Flora continued to find snippets of joy from the wing. Junolainen in particular was overlapping well to put in his fair share of crosses.
At the other end Miller managed a volley from a cleared corner that was blocked, that being the limit of Tammeka’s attacking threat in the first half, and the final chance for either side as the referee brought the half to a close.
Flora could have been more than just one goal up considering their control of play, but a lack of chances in the second part of the half limited their lead. They replaced goalkeeper Toom with Prins during the interval.
The start of the second half brought a good opportunity for the visitors. Laabus found Suurpere down the right wing, with the Tammeka attacker in plenty of space. His options were limited however, and his shot from the angle was beaten away by Prins.
At the other end, Post teed up Beglarishvili in the edge of the box, but he could only strike the ball straight back at Post.
Tammeka then had the ball in the net, but the whistle had already gone by the time Tiirik had smashed home Paju’s cutback from the by-line.
Despite not committing more than four men forward at any time, Tammeka were growing in confidence, aptly highlighted by Miller’s audacious strike from 35 yards which almost cleared the Estonian/Latvian border.
Flora were struggling for genuine chances, with Post’s low free kick that bounced wide of the post being their only real threat in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. With Flora starting to push further forward, Tammeka were beginning to spot gaps which to run into.
Sappinen replaced Logua for Flora on the hour mark, with the former slotting in behind Post, and Beglarishvili moving across to the right. Naal was then replaced by Tenno for Tammeka, as the latter’s hopes of getting back into the game continued to grow.
Tiirik and Valtna were full of running, and it seemed it wouldn’t be long before the golden chance that they needed came along. Flora’s threat was still bubbling under the surface, however, as Beglarishvili’s trickery threatened to unlock the now resolute Tammeka back-line.
Miller was having a good game in the centre of the Tammeka midfield, unwilling to be dominated by Frolov and Lepistu, whilst Suurpere was providing an effective option on the right flank. The lack of support for the final ball was the main downfall of Tammeka’s attacking threat, however, and as the game crept on, a need to commit more men forward was becoming apparent.
Flora, on the other hand, seemed a touch devoid of ideas. They had their lead to sit on, but the expectation for more was certainly on their shoulders.
A good tackle from Tekko stopped Sappinen from then having a clear sight of goal, as Tammeka’s increased commitment going forward left an increased amount of space for Flora to break into.
Tammeka were giving themselves attacking options, with Tenno overlapping well down the left, but the threat of a counter from Flora was always lingering, as Frolov smashed a shot just over the bar from the edge of the box.
Sappinen then broke left for Flora, and his shot smacked against the crossbar, further reminding Tammeka that they couldn’t neglect their defensive responsibilities in pursuit of an equaliser.
Baranov was then allowed to play in a low cross from the right, which was just too far in front of Beglarishvili, much to the relief of the visiting defence.
Sensing the need to shake up their attacking threat, Flora brought on Albert Prosa for Post in the 78th minute, but it was at the other end where Flora received an almighty scare just moments later.
Valtna played a lovely ball through the Flora defence for Tiirik, who controlled the ball well and slotted it into the bottom corner. Tammeka hearts were broken by the lineman’s flag however, as the visitors came dangerously close to causing an upset.
Prosa was straight into the action, dropping back to provide support between midfield and attack, but it was Tiirik at the other end who was continuing to be the biggest menace, running in behind the Flora defence and almost being released through on goal on a number of occasions. Tammeka were resisting the urge to get the ball forward at all costs, persisting with their neat passing game which Flora were struggling to deal with.
Back in the Tammeka half, a direct ball forward from Lepistu found Prosa, who outmuscled his defender, and released a shot that was deflected behind for a corner. Nothing came of the resulting set piece, and Tammeka were back on the hunt for a leveller once more.
Time quickly fell away for the visitors, and it looked likely that, for all of their endeavour and hard work, they were going to leave empty-handed. This fate was almost confirmed in the dying minutes, as Prosa was released down the right by right by Gussev, before dragging the ball back and returning it to Gussev on the edge of the box. He found space for the shot, but could only smash it at the goalkeeper.
That was not to be the final chance of the match, however, as Tiirik almost produced a Roy of the Rovers moment in injury time for Tammeka. He was played the ball 25 yards out, and stopped it dead on the floor. Looking up, he swung his boot at it, unleashing a dipping shot which froze time as it sailed through the air.
For all the world it looked like it would drop over Prins' head and send the visitors into delirium, but the harsh crash of the ball striking the crossbar released a chorus of gasps from all within the stadium, and Tammeka’s last hopes of a point were gone.
Flora retained their lead at the top of the lead, but their rotated squad were far from convincing. Tammeka can be immensely proud of their performance, but the records will show zero points for their efforts, and they remain firmly rooted in the relegation dogfight.