Cold and windy evening in Tallinn for the opening match of round 34 between FC Infonet and the reigning champions and current leaders FC Levadia. The latter came to Sportland Arena not to lose, but will they succeed in that? Let’s go step by step.
The home coach Aleksandr Puštov made few changes from the team that lost to Sillamäe on penalties in the cup match during the week, but the majority of the team remained the same. That means that Matvej Igonen was again on the goal, Kalimullin and Avilov took their positions in central defense, Semakhin was deployed on the right full-back position, Malov on the left. Melts and Aidara were utilized in central midfield, Harin on the left flank, Elhi on the right, and in attack we could see Ogorodnik playing behind Manucho.
Marko Kristal, on the other side,obviously satisfied by his side’s performance in the match against Flora made only one change. That means captain Smiško on the goal, Artjunin and Tipuric in front of him. Pikk and Podholjuzin were deployed on the full-back positions, Ilja Antonov and Vukobratovic in central midfield. Omar and Kruglov operated down the flanks and in attack, as usual, Subbotin played just behind Teever.
The match started with a mild dominance in possession by the away team, but nothing the home team couldn’t handle. All the attacks were broken already in midfield or 30 meters from Igonen’s goal. The first big chance of the match came in the 11th minute when Kruglov sent a nice ball in the box towards Subbotin, but his header went just over the bar. In the 18th minute Teever with the chance of the match as he received an excellent ball from Antonov in the box, managed to pull out a great shot, but Igonen responded with a wonderful save to deny Levadia’s attacker his 15th goal of the campaign and to keep his team in the game for a bit longer. As time was passing by Infonet slowly got better hold of the ball and started to push Levadia deeper in their own side of the field, but without any big chances to beat Smiško. The biggest chance for the home team was wasted by Semakhin who missed from few meters. On the other side, the punishment almost came in the 44th minute when Antonov nicely found Subbotin who entered the box, created himself enough space to shoot but Aidara in the last moment blocked his attempt into corner. Eiko Saar didn’t have much work to do as he showed only one yellow card, to Vukobratovic for the foul on Manucho.
Not a very eventful first half as expected, both teams were looking not to concede rather than score a goal. The wind in Tallinn was also not their ally and both coaches will certainly look to change a few things before the start of the second half.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half it was Levadia all over the field, but little could they do against the solid and disciplined defense of Infonet. All their attacks were stopped before the final third of the hosts and even though they dominated possession, the frustration because of the lack of chances was obvious. In the 59th minute they managed to get through Infonet’s defense, but Subbotin couldn’t pull out a shot from the 5 meters box. Coach Puštov tried to bring fresh legs into his team introducing Mones and Lipin in attempt to establish balance in possession. That was a good move from him as Infonet immediately pressed the champions a bit higher. However, that was also a big gamble as it opened much more space for Levadia to be danger on the counter. In the 66th minute excellent combination between Pikk and Kruglov, the former pulled out a good shot but Igonen answered accordingly. In the 71st minute very clumsy foul by Pikk on Avilov in the box and penalty for the home team. Manucho took the responsibility and easily sent Smiško on the wrong side for his 24th goal of the season and shocking lead for Infonet. In the 75th minute another big chance for the robust Infonet attacker, but his header went just past Smiško’s goal. In the 77th minute, however, he was more focused and after being left alone at the edge of the box nicely took two steps forward and beat the helpless goalkeeper for 2-0. Sensational result at Sportland Arena after Levadia dominated for most of the game. Until the end of the match Marko Kristal’s boys pushed hard but were unable to break Infonet’s defensive line.
Interesting start of matchday 34 and the title race will be far from over should Flora, Kalju and Sillamäe win their respective games tomorrow.