Shocking start of the season for Levadia
It was a nice Saturday afternoon, positive atmosphere at the Sportland Arena where around 150 fans were expecting an easy win for the reigning champions in their quest for a second title in as many years. Even though Fc Paide is known as a solid defensive team, few would have predicted a tough match for Teever and the company in Levadia’s front line. But, let’s start from the very beginning.
After losing the title in the Supercup in the dying moments of the match, changes were expected in Levadia’s line up. It was obvious that something doesn’t function in Kristal’s forward line. On the goal was again the undisputed Ukrainian giant Smisko, in front of him Artjunin and Jahhimovits commanding the defensive third together with Podholjuzin and Pikk on the full-back positions. In central midfield position there was no surprise as Antonov and Kaljumäe took their standard places. On the left flank, the new signing Omar El-Husseini was handed his first start, on the right side as usual was Subbotin and in the attacking line Teever was supposed to get his support from another new signing, the Lithuanian striker Buinickij.
On the other side, as expected, coach Rooba went for a more defensive approach, hoping to use the agility of his wingers and strikers and be dangerous on the counter. On the goal was the new goalkeeper, Niinepuu. The defensive line consisted of Indermitte and Mägi in central defense and Kovtunovits and Kaldoja on the right and left side, respectively. The task of stopping Levadia’s attacks was handed to Reitalu and Kõll, who operated the central midfield, Valmas and Rõivassepp played on the flanks and the foreigners in Paide, Jasper Uwaegbulam and Said Atie, took the responsibility of shaking Levadia’s defense and cause trouble in the final third.
From the start of the match it was obvious that Marko Kristal’s players still haven’t recovered from the defeat in the Super Cup. In the third minute after what seemed to be a normal backpass from Pikk to Smisko, the goalkeeper confusingly picked the ball up with his hands which meant an indirect free kick for the visitors 8 meters from the goal. A short pass and shot on goal ended unsuccessfully for them as the ball was deflected into corner after which the danger was cleared.
After this, the champions managed to stabilize the game and take control in possession but without any dangerous chances towards Niinepuu’s goal. The biggest chance in this period came in 24th minute when Subbotin managed to escape his defender and sent a curled ball in the box. His deflected pass reached the head of Buinickij who somehow passed to Teever whose effective half-bicycle kick was saved by Paide’s goalkeeper who had the bar on his side this time. This woke up the home fans (who surprisingly showed up in low numbers for the season opener) and everyone expected a canonade towards Niinepuu’s goal.
Instead, Paide had their moments. In the last ten minutes they had two chances. The first one was a nice half-volley shot by the Nigerian attacker Uwaegbulam that went just over the goal and the solid header by Indermitte that went few centimeters over the bar.
However, it was Levadia that had the best chances in the final moments of the first half. In the 38th minute Teever missed a sitter. His one on one effort against Paide’s goalkeeper was saved causing sighs among Levadia’s fans. Few minutes later, Subbotin fed Teever another great ball in the box, but against all odds, he missed the target. When everyone expected the referee to put an end of the first 45 minutes, Antonov was fouled at the edge of the box, 18 meters from the goal. Yellow card for Reitalu and huge opportunity for Levadia. Short pass by Buinickij to Artjunin whose canon shot was saved by Niinepuu who again had the frame of the goal as his ally. New sighs on the stands and final whistle by the referee.
Marko Kristal will definitely have a word with his attackers for the lack of finishing, while Meelis Rooba must tighten up the midfield in order to stop Levadia’s attacks even higher up the field.
The second half didn’t bring any changes in the squads. Despite their dominance in possession, the defending champions couldn’t find their way to Paide’s goal.
Even the introduction of Ivanov and Rättel didn’t bring any changes, mainly because Rooba answered accordingly, giving chance to Veis, Mütt and Paur. Appart from few wide shots and harmless corner kicks there was nothing that separated the two teams in the second 45 minutes. As time passed by, the players of Levadia became more and more anxious and failed to connect the midfield with the attack.
The last, probably the riskiest move that might have decided the game was replacing the defensive rock Artjunin with the attacking oriented Rohtla. This meant more space on the flanks for Paide and in one such case, Andrei Veis stole the ball in his box and skillfully played a through pass to the Swedish attacker Said Atie who managed to bag the ball into the low left corner of Smisko’s goal.
Shocking moment for Levadia that adds to their attacking woes in the recent two matches. Something has to be changed and Kristal and his assistants have one week until the clash with Sillamäe to find a solution for that. As for Meelis Rooba and his team, they can just enjoy the success and hope to add to that and cause another shock already next week at the same place against Fc Flora.
Marko Kristal (coach of Fc Levadia): “In order to win games, you have to score goals – that is the main point in football. If you do not score goals, then you haven’t done anything – it means you can’t win games. Paide showed us how to score goals. In the second half they had only one chance and they scored. Hats off to them.
Omar El Husseiny (player of Fc Levadia): “It is a great disappointment to start the season like this. I don’t know where the problem is. The crossing or that we were just unlucky, but what can we do. We will just go home and return tomorrow, work hard and hopefully the next game will be much better. Personally, I am satisfied with my kick off and I hope to play even better.”
Meelis Rooba (coach of Fc Paide): “There will be surprises. Today we scored a goal and defended well and that is very positive thing. Of course, there are areas we should work on. Teamwork is one of them. If we want to be in the upper half of the table we need to win difficult games. Last year we lost few games in the last moments, today the luck was on our side.”
“He (Karl Palatu) is feeling a bit under the weather at the moment. I am not sure if he will have his debut against Flora. Joel played very well, there is no reason to change him, even though maybe Mägi and Palatu would be a better combination. Palatu may be ready for the next game, but Joel played well and he deserved his place. We will see, the season is long.”
Mart-Mattis Niinepuu (goalkeeper of Fc Paide): “There was a lot of work today. Couldn’t relax at all. Our aim was to try and get a draw. The win was a reward for us.”