In football, formulas cannot be applied.
A > B > C -> A > C is just an abstraction when applied to clubs challenging each other.
We hold onto statistics to explain trends and behaviours of each side and try, somehow, to predict what a game will be and, eventually, have our say on the final score.
However, all the above, means nothing when the referee whistles the kick-off, the ball is rolled forward by one of the two sides and events unfold.
This is probably what many observers of the FC Infonet vs. Narva Trans clash might have thought upon leaving the Sportland Arena field on a rainy night of a rather chilly Estonian Spring.
After a couple of ‘saunas’ (the word ‘sauna’ is used in Estonia to refer to football games with big scores) in A.LeCoq Arena (Flora vs. Kalev 5-1) and Kadriorg Park Stadium (Levadia vs. Lokomotiv Jõhvi 6-0) the little attendance (52 people according to the Estonian FA official records) expected a bit of chill from what promised to be a tactical challenge between two experienced coaches.
Aleksandr Puśtov on one side opted for his traditional 4-2-3-1 with the flankers putting pressure on the oppositions defence with their pace.
As the 50-year-old coach had to give up to the talent of Maksim Lipin, he opted for a conservative choice on the right flank as he gave a start to 28-year-old Jevgeni Gurtsioglujants. Born a right full-back, the captain (usually the armband is given to nr.2 Kalimullin) adapted brilliantly into the flanker role and made not regret for having lost Lipin due to injury: one assist and one goal was his finally tally when Martin Salong whistle the time around 11pm. Puśtov can certainly be satisfied if one of his substitutes can replace in a key-player in such a delicate game.
Because, do not be fooled by the final result (4-0) as Trans travelled to Tallinn after holding Levadia on a goalless draw with the conviction to be able to grab another point away. Another point, not three thoug as Trans had never won a game away from Narva, something that has not yet changed since Friday evening.
However, before FC Infonet rolled them down, their record was not despicable: notwithstanding the 3 losses and the 2 draws, they had just suffered 3 goals and scored 1. If scoring goals seem still a great issue for Bondarenko, preventing others to score and in big numbers seemed a special skill developed by the ‘reds’ during the first quarter of season. 9 goals in 10 games was a pretty decent tally for a drop-zone club, the one with the best goal difference at those disgraced latitudes (a mere -1).
We cannot even say the 61-year-old coach did not try to give a shake to the forward line. After starting with the young Skinjov up front (replaced in second half with a boy from the double, Lissitson) he tried to rotate men in turns both to remove any benchmark for the Infonet defence and to try his luck in the forward’s roulette. However, it was an unlucky evening as none of the solutions offered (Miśins, Fjodorov) made the difference. If we take a look at the other 9 clubs of the Premium Liiga, and if we exclude Lokomotiv, all the other 8 can, somehow, count on 1-2 effective strikers. Bondarenko cannot. It is not an excuse, because the ball possession and circulation looks pretty decent compared to the past season. It only means that ‘The Colonel’ has worked hard to give an identity to what were the leftovers of the past years following the betting scandal (trial in court still ongoing for those involved , including Premium Liiga all-time top-scorer, Gruznov) and few adequate players were brought (Siim Tenno, Sergejs Misins). However, if a striker will not come in the transfer window, Trans’ season will be just an honest safety and avoiding to go below Tammeka.
Coming to the game, also Bondarenko opted for a 4-2-3-1 and went to war with one of the shortest substitutes lists of the season: 3 players, 1 goalkeeper and 2 on-field ! Irie and Tenno were the wall erected in front of the 4-man defence line directed by Nesterovsky and Avdeed.
Compact lines and defence moving quickly up explain why they managed to suffer only 9 goals in 10 games: the tactical tasks are accomplished orderly and timely.
On a slick pitch for the heavy rain that battered Tallinn since the early afternoon, FC Infonet started immediately with high tempo to try and find a way to Lepmets goal (the lad got married on Saturday, congratulations!). Their attempts in trying to take control over the game lasted for the first 10 minutes, however Trans were disciplined in waiting for the opposition and breaking when the ball was in their half.
After the initial passiveness, Trans started to take the initiative and the impression was they could have done something remarkable until Manucho’s 7th seasonal goal broke the balance in favour of FC Infonet (20’)
It was like a cold shower on Trans shoulders as the home team had not been dangerous in Lepmets premises for the first part of the game except a Manucho off-target attempt . A game that was immediately and as expected, hardly fought in the midfield with hard challenges that required Salong’s attention several times and two cards already in the first 15 minutes (Gurtsioglujants and Nahk, the final count would have been 7).
Paradoxically, before Manucho tapped in a precise low cross by Gurtsioglujants himself, Narva Trans had the bext chance of the game. Tanel Melts committed one rare blunder and, after covering the ball from Misins attack, he passed back to Kassantsjuk. However, his pass was short and slow, allowing the Latvian pint-sized midfielder to latch onto and run towards the box. Once in the penalty area, he fired a cross for the opposite side hoping Kassantsjuk would have been stranded by the sudden switch. Instead, it took too long for Skinjov to control and fire at the Infonet nr.69 and the shot was eventually wide of the post.
It was the most dangerous situation of the first half for the 28-year-old goalkeeper replacing the young talent Matvei Igonen. His last-minute absence was quite a surprise however, no injury involved as the boy simply suffered a loss in his family (his grandfather passed away, our condolences) and Puśtov preferred to give him a rest and send the veteran goalie in to avoid any psychological setback that would undermine Igonen's talent and reputation. A smart move.
One nil down, Trans was expected to have some kind of reaction after the good proposals of the start. However, it was now Infonet waiting for Trans to come up. Strong of the lead, the home team could ideally let the initiative and rely on pressure to break and start counterattacks. A favourable environment for Puśtov fast-paced game which produced the opener thanks to a fast Mones-Gurtsioglujants overlapping.
And it was the latter to bring the score to 2-0 only seven minutes later when he scored a goal which was a perfect copy of the one Manucho netted.
This time the assist came from Valov, another one who put his brand on the game and is among the most well-trained of the home team.
The nr.10 scored with a similar sliding tap-in giving no chance to Lepmets to react as it was from very close distance. Bondarenko was right in the post-match interview to indicate Infonet as the faster team on the pitch, as they really exploited their best ability: thinking and acting faster than the oppositions. Probably, contrary to many other games, they have really ‘slept’ (as Bondarenko literally added) in the key moments that helped Infonet to go two nil up with the only on-target chances in the the first 30 minutes. Blame it on the long trip or on the late-evening playing time, Trans lacked that solidity that have made them remarkable for so far.
After the second setback, Trans tried to reply with a relevant shot from distance by Misins. The nr.7 coordination was good and Kassantsjuk was a little unprepared as he was compelled to an awkward deflection into corner above the bar. A goal would have got Trans back into the game.
On 32’ Trans earned a free-kick for Nahk pulling down Skinjov. The nr.38 risked another card however Salong simply assigned the set-piece. Plotnikov take was over the bar.
Trans attempts to get into the game were totally cut off eleven minutes later by Valov's great curled shot going past Lepmets. The Russian's ballistic feat (assumingly the best goal of the matchday) sealed the result for the first half and basically for all the game.
In second half, in fact, Trans grew tired minute after minute as frustration increased along with the psychological awareness of having to pull three goals back. A situation that happened only once and with tableleader Kalju.
FC Infonet enjoyed the spaces left at the back for their counterattacks. There was a chance to enjoy quick one-twos thanks to Valov and Manucho’s skills. The Ivorian seems definitely restored as it’s true that goals bring confidence and confidence brings more goals. The 4-0 scored by Mones comes from one of those quick blitzes with the Infonet right full back finding himself at the right moment in the right place to head a Elhi’s cross past Lepmets.
The full-backs cooperating for the fourth goal action it was the clear picture of how FC Infonet were good at handling the transition.
The final score compelled Trans to return home with many thoughts and a remarkable defensive record soiled by a forgettable performance. It is indeed better to forget for the Bondarenko band as Flora will stick around in the border city already on Tuesday for a midweek matchday.
Another important fixture also expects FC Infonet as they will receive FC Levadia already tomorrow night in Sportland Arena.