Kalju’s worst nightmare has become true on a fine and warm July evening.
Not only Prins’ side did not manage to leave Sportland Arena with three points, but the injury list got extended with two additional names: Allan Kimbaloula (twisted knee) and Tihhon Śiśov (twisted ankle). A lot of bad news altogether ahead of the return game against FRAM Reykjavik on Thursday in Kadriorg.
Kalju had their best moment in the final minutes of the first half, however they could not continue it in the second period. The game continued in the ugly fashion as Tohver had allowed to and eventually the 0-0 was a fair result.
The goalless draw allowed Flora to increase the gap over Kalju (+4) and Levadia to consolidate the second place (+2). Now Kalju will have to make the most out of the games against minnows (three points with all the bottom five) and try to win at least one of the two derbies (so far just 2 points collected in 4 games) let alone overcoming Sillamäe.
Prins had already tried to spare some of his best men ahead of the European clash by giving a rest to Reintam in defence (Rodrigues in), Vunk and Toomet in midfield (Reginald and Mööl in) and by letting Felipe Nunes still recover the best form. As a consequence, he fielded Quintieri up front and positioned Kimbaloula in the usual left-flank position in what was the traditional 4-2-3-1 seen this season with Wakui in the trequartista position.
Puśtov, not affected by any rotation worry, presented the best line-up he could with Malov on the right full-back, Harin as right flanker and Aidara behind Manucho, returning from suspension. The midfield duo was the usual Melts-Nahk partnership with Kalimullin-Avilov behind. Elhi (left full-back) and Lipin (right flank) completed the rest of the line-up in front of Matvei Igonen.
In the first ten minutes of the game Infonet were the ones to exert most of the pressure. However, the first chance was from a set-piece (4’) when Melts curled it towards Teleś goal. The ball was aimed at the first post, although the Kalju captain was ready to safely catch it. Similar response from Kalju on 5’ minutes, Prates curled a free kick in the box, allegedly aimed at someone’s head, however Igonen was safe in the aerial catch and put the ball quickly into play. Lipin was very fast in collecting, controlling and running towards Kalju’s box, however his finish was well above the bar for Kalju fans to sigh in relief.
Lipin provided another chance to Manucho (8’) as Rodrigues made a mistake on the clearance allowing the nr. 20 to collect the ball. The shot performed by the Ivorian was completely off-target.
On 10’ minutes Teleś made everyone understand why he would have been the best of Kalju for a little while as he outdid himself on a Harin’s free-kick.
Past the quarter, the game entered into an ugly phase as it was often broken by fouls whistled by match director Kristo Tohver.
Quite questionable his match direction.
In the same fashion as the World Cup games seen recently on TV, he let the two sides beat each other for a little while (about one hour) before deciding to, finally, pull out a yellow card (49’, Fabio Prates). Because we don’t count in Wakui’s yellow (26’) for not respecting the distance on a free-kick taken by Harin. Pedantry.
It is frankly unintelligible why the game should have taken such a wrong path already in the first half when the referee could just use the cards he had in his pockets. He simply let the game inflame and in the end he probably showed the same amount of cards: 6 yellows, three each, and one straight red shown to Bärengrub, already quite nervous at Manucho’s provocative behaviour a-la Balotelli.
The result was an overall nervous and irritating confrontation. Knowing the stake was high for both (especially Kalju) Tohver should have shown less leniency since the beginning. It’s the case of Deniss Malov, booked only on 75’ minutes for shirt-pulling. He could have already entered Tohver’s notebook on 20’ minutes when he basically ended Kimbaloula game (he would have been subbed during the interval with Kirss) after repeatedly kicking the French-Congolese nr.10. Tohver assigned a free-kick and let Malov go away with it while Kimbaloula was receiving meds on the touchline. A very poor performance from the Estonian international referee.
Going back to the game, on 18’ minutes it was Elhi’s turn to have a go at Teleś from distance, however once again the Kalju’s nr.1 was well-positioned to curb the home team’s attempt.
The mental and physical fatigue of Kalju players was quite evident during the game as in this frame Fabio Prates made a mistake on a long ball letting Elhi go.
In build-up phase instead, a wrong pass (too short) towards Śiśov overlapping, kicked in the Infonet notorious counterattack. Prates, on the ball trajectory, missed to intercept. He was lucky that Elhi’s cross towards the box was low and cutting Manucho and Aidara off, both wrongly heading towards the goal (one should have at least stopped or cut back), allowing the Brazilian to recover, intercept the ball and finally clear it (30’).
During the first thirty minutes, Kalju had not managed to aim at Igonen’s goal in one single chance. Quintieri looked too much isolated up front and supplied with inappropriate long balls. The Italian nr.9 was willing to drop back and look for the ball in the attempt of quick one-two's with the midfield or the left flank, Kallaste or Kimbaloula. On 33’ minutes, the latter had one of his storming ball-on-foot slaloms from left to right, however he did not find the space to shoot and lost the ball on the edge of the box.
In the final part of the first half, Infonet were more keen to wait for Kalju who, on their hand, were having some difficulties in finding spaces considering the excellent markings organized by Puśtov.
However, if conceded the ball possession, Kalju can usually make something out of it. Additionally, Infonet suffered a bit from loss of focus in the final minutes allowing Kalju the best chances (three) of the game.
On 43’ minutes, Quintieri, finally added ‘1’ in the ‘on-target shots’ column. His attempt was not very powerful and allowed Igonen a comfortable catch.
One minute later, we were to name the following as Kalju’s best chance, had we not waited for the injury time (one minute). Kallaste managed to win a ball in Infonet half and serve Wakui. The Japanese Wizard had enough time to control and set up a shot at Igonen’s second post. The shot-stopper response was outstanding as he outstretched himself to parry into corner.
As it was not enough, on 45+1, the best build-up of the game and chance for Kalju. It is worth to recount it from the beginning.
Rodrigues sent a long and precise ball to Kallaste, overlapping on the left flank. The Kalju’s nr.14 chested the ball down for Quintieri who controlled while facing his back to the goal. With pure instinct, he 'felt' Wakui was running into the box and served him with a precise through-ball that ran in front of the nr.75. Wakui was about to shoot when, Malov, with a heaven-sent sliding tackle, blocked his attempt before it could hurt Igonen. It was the very last emotion of the first half and probably the best of the game.
In second half Prins was compelled to replace Kimbaloula with Kirss, moving Wakui on the left and trying Quintieri as trequartista. The Italian exploited the position to roam from left to right and float between the lines creating several headaches to Avilov and Melts in turn with his speed and wits.
Puśtov pulled out Lipin to enter Valov in the same position, right flanker.
Second half was nothing different compared to the first one. The fouling competition continued under the eyes of the referee who finally reminded to have the cards on him.
On 57’ minutes Karl Mööl entered our notebook after finishing a nice build-up on the right flank with a shot over the bar. It will be is most remarkable attempt before being subbed by Pürg (69’, at his debut in Premium Liiga with nr.3 on his back) following Bärengrub red card (67’).
Before that, Quintieri tried to put a cross from the left flank (60’) however it went well off-target.
A copy-cat chance happened to Infonet three minutes later when Manucho’s cross from the left, flew over Aidara’s head (the Ivorian was ready to tap in undisturbed had the ball got onto his feet). The ball eventually ended up in Harin’s feet. His attempt was rebounded by Teleś.
With Kalju one man light, it was quite evident that Prins side would have been content with a point notwithstanding the good chances squandered in the dying minutes of the first half.
Infonet increased the pressure, however, the defence guided by Rodrigues partnering with Śiśov, until the latter was subbed for injury (87’, with Ainsalu) managed to handle the pressure and avoid to bring home a famous loss.
Infonet’s great chance came on 86’ minutes when Semakhin on-the-run header was centimetres away from the second post having Teleś totally cut off from any chance to respond. The injury time (three minutes), did not add anything else to the confrontation.
As last-season clash, Kalju lost points to Infonet in between their European path.
More pictures in the game photogallery.