With the start of the season just around the corner, FC Levadia have already shown everyone why they are the powerhouse in Estonian football.
Four wins in five matches for Marko Kristal’s team and goal difference 8-3 (they won the last game against Paide 3-2, turning the game on its head from 0-2 - editor) were a direct message to all title contenders that FC Levadia will definitely be the squad to beat.
Despite the rumours about their best striker leaving the club (Rimo Hunt eventually left for Kazakhstan - editor), the reigning champions showed no mercy and dominated the Tallinn’s Indoor Sports Hall tournament.
RdS was there for the derby games against Kalju and Flora.
In both matches Kristal didn’t experiment too much with the tactics, instead he gave chance to all the players in his squad to fight for a starting spot in the upcoming season. And they didn’t disappoint him.
For the first game he set up a classical 4-4-2 formation with pacy wingers and strong midfielders. Roman Smiško started on the goal with Podholjuzin and Jahhimovits in front of him, Pikk and Dubinin on the left and right side, respectively. Dmitrijev and Aallikko operated the central midfield while Tamm and Raudsepp were the ones to cause trouble on the flanks. The attacking line consisted of Ingemar Teever and the surprise from Levadia’s reserve team Henry Rohtla.
The beginning of the match wasn’t very promising for the champions. In the first 15 minutes they gave the ball away way too easily and were caught out of position on a number of times. However, as time went by they finally picked themselves up and looked like the team that strolled to the title last season. Solid in defense, composed in midfield and always looking dangerous on the counter, they managed to set balance and create few chances while wisely giving Kalju the dominance in possession. Especially impressive were Dmitrijev and Aallikko, who made sure all Kalju attacks were successfully stopped 30 meters from Smiško’s goal, while always looking for space to play the ball forward. In the28th minute, Raudsepp received a ball on the right side where he was fouled. Pikk took the free kick, sending an accurate ball in the box to Jahhimovits who easily headed it behind Teles’ back.
he goal came as a shock for Kalju players who got lost on the field and if Raudsepp and Teever were a bit more concentrated, Levadia could have easily doubled their lead.
After this wave of attacks, Kalju somehow managed to get back in the game and the match seemed to open up. The ending minutes of the first half brought few more exciting moments with Rohtla missing a shot from the right side, one dangerous corner for Levadia from the left and another free kick from the always dangerous right flank.
In the second half, coach Marko Kristal decided to make a change giving chance to a whole new squad. On the goal line for the second 45 minutes was Pikker, the defensive line consisted of Artjunin and Kulinits as central backs, Voltskov and Kruglov on the sides, midfield was led by Ilja Antonov and Marek Kaljumäe, Subbotin took his standard right wing position, while the trialist Omar El Husseini occupied the left flank. Marin and Rättel were given the task to operate in front of Kalju’s box.
However, the change of players didn’t bring much change of what was happening on the field.
Levadia again wisely let Kalju dominate possession, carefully waiting to expose them on the counter. The second half showed that El Husseini might just be the man Levadia need to defend their title and to try to survive in Europe as long as possible. The lively winger demonstrated good connection with the attack and was always ready to help in defense making him one of the greatest assets during this transfer window (his transfer is still pending though, expecting a work permit from Estonian authorities).
Another positive from the second half was the goalkeeper Pikker who had two excellent saves, showing the coach that he can seriously count on his contribution this season. By the end of the game, Levadia managed to completely neutralize Kalju’s attacks and bring the game to a calm end.
It was an excellent test for Marko Kristal’s side who showed that even with a combined team, they will have the main word in the upcoming season.
(1 - continues)