An old proverb says that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. Levadia have showed to be the tough ones against FC Infonet who never brought a consistent threat to Smiśko’s goal.
The Ukrainian goalkeeper was busy a few times during the 90’ minutes. Twice he well responded to a couple of similar attempts from Manucho and Martõnov (on-the-run shots in the box from the right side to the close post, 5’ and 41’) and once, when Levadia was already leading 3-0 in the second half (58’) he made a great save on a Manucho’s header by parrying with his left foot.
With such a poor impact on the game in terms of chances, Puśtov XI could not expect to bring home the three points. On the contrary, Levadia were patients in letting Infonet develop their game. After that, Infonet let the initiative to the visitors who, little by little, took control of the game and found in Vladislav Ivanov the perfect finalizer. After the brace against Loko, the nr.25 scored an hattrick in an important top5 clash. It might be a good sign for Kristal, still looking for someone who could make him forget the likes of Rimo Hunt.
Puśtov started with his traditional 4-2-3-1 where the flankers (Valov on the left and Lipin on the right) are pushing high up compelling the full-backs (Kulinits and Raudsepp) to drop. Aidara was given another start behind Manucho with his back covered by Melts and Nahk. Defensive line presented Semakhin in the place of Mones and Igonen was back on goal.
Kristal is continuing to experiment in defence following Jahhimovitś long suspension. Happy with Kulinits’ second half against Lokomotiv, he left Volchkov on the bench for the nr.19 to start. Podholjuzin back in central position partnering with Artjuinin and Raudsepp in the unusual role of left full-back (he is a midfielder). Vukobratovic was given another rest to avoid another card that would have meant suspension in the derby against Flora. His place was taken by the physical power of Marek Kaljumäe siding Antonov. El Hussieny and Subbotin were the thorns on the flanks for Infonet defence with Rättel partnering Ivanov up front.
The very first chance was the one we described above coming from Manucho. Śmiśko’s response generated the first corner kick of the game that had no developments. Levadia replied with a set-piece (corner) taken by El Hussieny. The cross sent in the box did not find Subbotin’s tap-in leaving the nr.10 hands in hair.
On 12’ minutes Lipin tried to shoot from distance on the run, however it was a totally off target attempt.
The midfield duel featured Kaljumäe constantly nagging Aidara. The asphyxiating man-marking brought by the nr.23 is one of the explanations of the poor performance from the Frenchman that compelled Puśtov to replace him with Martõnov during the break.
Until Ivanov’s opener (31’) there were a couple of chances worth a remark from each side. First El Hussieny tried a curled shot from outside the box which Igonen stopped with no hassle (13’) and later (18’) Manucho tried to head a corner kick, however his attempt was not well aimed with the ball bouncing on the floor and losing momentum.
There was even time for penalty claims from both side: Subbotin on 21’ and Valov on 26’. Food for our ‘moviola’ analysis.
Until that moment Levadia’s most active man had been El Hussieny. He well exploited the space left between Lipin and Semakhin to go deep and send crosses in. When the spaces reduced, he was keen in moving around the lines and looking for quick one-two’s with his teammates.
It’s from El Hussieny’s feet that the opener was baked and served hot to FC Infonet’s sleepy defence. The Pharaoh through ball was deflected by Semakhin into the box and converted into a long ball. Avilov and Kalimullin were looking at the ball and did not realize Ivanov was coming from behind to kick it past Igonen.
Probably Levadia did not deserve the lead until that moment, however what happened later did make it legitimate.
In fact, until Ivanov’s brace (favoured by a Igonen blunder) Levadia started to play remarkably better. As on 33’ minutes when Subbotin freed himself from right to center and then released the ball to Antonov. The pint-sized midfielder shot at Igonen who was ready to catch it.
The only shiver down Kristal’s spine came on 36’ when Śmiśko was victim of his own indecision and found himself a difficult ball to handle in the box while being pressured by Manucho. The Levadia captain opted to get rid quickly of the ball with a long throw in the touchline.
One minute later, Ivanov exploited Igonen’s blunder on a free-kick sent in the box by Artjunin. The young goalkeeper came out of his box to catch what seemed an easy ball to handle for a player of his likes. However, probably confused with Subbotin trying to jump and reach the ball in the air, he could not hold the ball and put it back into play basically with his chest. On the bounce, Ivanov was ready to collect and send it past him.
At the half time whistle, FC Infonet goalkeeper coach Oleg Andreev, had a tight talk with the young talent showing his dissatisfaction at the young shotstopper's mistakes. Also in the opener situation, it looked like he could have come quicker out of the goal.
What is the explanation for such a poor performance from one of the most promising talents of the Premium Liiga?
Tanel Melts, FC Infonet midfielder, tried to give an explanation at full time to ERR Sport microphone ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with him’ claimed the former Levadia midfielder who did not spare pleasantries also to the teammates who were subbed at half-time (Aidara and Lipin) naming their performance as literally ‘shitty’ ‘I have no idea if it’s his young age or some kind of panic…in training everything is ideal and comes out (well), however I don’t know what happens in the game. Simply something doesn’t work’ explained the FC Infonet nr.8 whose words must probably be taken into consideration within the changing room notwithstanding he joined the club last winter.
Igonen has not been really lucky against Levadia. In the previous clash, his blunder on a free-kick taken by Artjunin (deja-vu!) helped Levadia winning in the last 15 minutes of the game. It will be very hard for the Infonet nr.1 to put all this behind his back and move on. At the same time, his talent can help him only if he will continue the hard and good work shown in trainings as witnessed by Melts himself.
During second half, obviously, FC Infonet had to uncover themselves in the attempt to pull one back and reopen the game. This attitude helped Levadia to find even more space as, meanwhile, a worrying hole between midfield and defence opened in FC Infonet lines.
On 56’ minutes everyone understood it was not FC Infonet’s night when Pupart granted a penalty for an (assumingly) handball by Kalimullin. The episode was not clear and will certainly be more food for our moviola analysis. The penalty was transformed by Ivanov for his personal hattrick and 6th seasonal goal. Worth to be mentioned these are the first goals against a club from the top5 as earlier he only managed to score to Kalev (1) and Loko (2).
After the 3-0 FC Infonet were totally disheartened. The only high note was the abovementioned header by Manucho who found the best response from Śmiśko (68’). After that, the game entered into a lull occasionally broken by initiatives from Subbotin (70’, attempt walled) and El Hussieny (72’, his diagonal shot few centimeters past the far post).
Puśtov tried to give a shake with another change (Gurtsjoglujants in for Avilov with Semakhin moved to a central defender position) and a change of formation (4-3-3) however luck was not on his side when on 74’ Mones picked up what seemed a bad injury considered he received prolonged medicals, was brought out on a stretcher and left the pitch limping with a an icepack on his ankle. All in the attempt, achieved, to wall a shot from El Hussieny which probably twisted his ankle pointed against the surface.
At that point, Puśtov had done all the changes and Infonet had to finish one man light. Enough for Subbotin to score his 9th goal of the season left in front of the empty goal to tap in a cross sent in by El Hussieny. In the attempt of reaching the ball first, he impacted with his teammate Ivanov who was left on the floor aching and receiving medicals. With a thin forward line, Rättel subbed for injury and Teever already out following a knock against Loko on Friday, Kristal didn’t risk further and pulled out the nr.25 and sent the young Rohtla from the double team in.
His last change gave the debut in the Estonian Premium Liiga to Jere Aallikko, the Finnish U-20 talent mostly used in the double team (84').
Puśtov was obviously not pleased with the final result however he did not find any other excuse offering an honest view of his men behaviour on the pitch ‘the players are not yet psychologically ready to win’ said the experienced coach giving a completely opposite message than the one given by Manucho last Friday ‘they don’t have confidence and someone’s got even legs shaking. If the players will get self-confidence and experience, the results will come’
Infonet will travel to Jõhvi next week to take on Lokomotiv.
Levadia, before the derby against Flora at A.LeCoq, have the Cup Final on Saturday against Santos Tartu.