FC Kuressaare needed a two-win streak to feed hopes for avoiding relegation. The -11 gap they stepped in Kalev Stadium with was certainly a great mountain to climb already. When at full-time whistle the result was fixed to 3:1 for the home team, it was clear that whatever the result would have been with Infonet on Saturday afternoon, it wouldn't have been enough to keep the hopes high.
However, each and every game it is a different story and as such must be looked at and recounted.
And looking at the game stats, it is quite inexplicable how FC Infonet were not able to make the three points theirs: we count about ten attempts both on and off the target for the club located in Lasnamäe district only in first half.
Instead it takes fifteen minutes for Kure to bring some danger to Igonen's goal and it comes from free-kick when Valmas angles a shot aimed at the second Post calling Igonen to outdo himself in one of his few but essential saves during the game.
Before that, Infonet had started at full-throttle pushing Kuressaare in their half and trying to immediately turn the score in their favour: the count of four corner kicks in less than six minutes explains well the kind of pressure Sergei Zamogilnõi's XI is put through.
The first greatest chance for the home team is a Manucho's header: the Ivorian number 11 is punctual in hitting the ball sent in from corner kick, however the impact is weak and central, easy for Hansen to catch it almost incredulous at the opponent's faulty aim.
Puśtov opts for a 4-4-2 formation entrusting the flanks with a lot of work in pushing laterally. The aggressive attitude of side 'trains' (Elhi-Malinin and Aristov-Lipin) basically compels the 4-2-3-1 presented by Zamogilnõi to shrink into a 4-4-1-1 as the flankers (Pohlak and Karpov) have to constantly help the full-backs (Viira on the left and Pajunurm on the right).
This prevents Kuressaare to bring any serious threats from the sides compelling the Vikings to go central in the very few occasions they happen to do that. However, on the only chance they manage to catch Infonet rear-guard uncovered, Mööl is able to exploit the space left to him on the left flank and to send it in the box.
Here Valmas taps it in without the necessary sporting anger as the ball is basically aimed at Igonen who is able to deflect it with his left foot. It's the hugest chance on build-up created by Kuressaare during the whole game, quite telling about the difficulties they encounter when they try to organize and impose their game to the opponent.
Until that it had been an Infonet monologue: a well-bent free-kick by Harin (7') was deflected by Hansen; a Lipin attempt within the box (10') and a header without great power by Harin (17'); a shot from distance by Manucho, off-target (28').
The amount of chances created gives the idea about how one-way the game was: Kure was pushed in their half and they hoped the time would pass fast. The more the time passed, the more the frustration into Infonet players grew instead.
After half an hour they decide to take a rest and leave the initiative to the visiting team in order to avoid to lose energies for the second half.
The ideas among Kure's men are few, Mööl as usual is the most inspired one as he tries to put a bit of skills in the long balls thrown forward.
Any initiative is well interrupted by the midfield duo, Martonov-Nahk: the 38-year-old maestro is giving pace to the line and is able to cool down and hold the ball when needed. If Kure's counterattack tactics didn't fully work earlier, now the possibility to take initiative it's not exploited: Infonet can simply allow themselves to take a rest without risking any danger and eventually strike in counterattack.
The last five minutes of the game are rather drowsy with monotony broken by the red card picked up by Raiko Karpov, Kure's nr.11: while Mööl brings the ball from left to right, he is to slow in following the teammate and recoiling to receive it.
Once Mööl passes towards his direction, he is late in collecting it and is anticipated by the Infonet defender. Compelled to a foul, he receives the second card and reaches the dressing room earlier than his teammates.
Down to ten men it doesn't look any better for Kuressaare to go through the rest of the game against a far better side as Infonet is. Boosted by the power play, Infonet have got two more chances to regret at as Manucho and Elhi are unable to finish behind Hansen. The half-time whistle on a 0-0 score looks like a miracle for the islanders.
The latter goes to partner with Viira moved to the right side, Könninge replaces Pohlak sent in full-back positition. It's the fortress erected to crash Infonet's hopes to score.
In fact the game's script doesn't change much: Infonet forward from the flanks, Kure holding back. Trevor Elhi is the most active on the left flank as the full back is pushing hard in the second half compensating the work made in first half by his teammate, Aristov, on the right.
He's got a good chance to shoot in the box as receives from the touchline and has an open space to aim at Hansen's goal, however he is too slow allowing Indermitte to recover and wall his shot before it could hurt (59').
One minute later Martonov misses the best chance of the game as he's sent deep alone against Hansen: he is very cool in shooting between the nr.1 legs, however a small deflection with the back of heel by the keeper makes the ball to change direction and hit the post. Viira was already bending himself to pick the ball from the back of the net, instead as soon as he realizes the struck of luck, he clears it away before any Infonet man would storm on it.
Two minutes later Martonov is subbed by Gurtšioglujants. Before him also Manucho and Harin had left the pitch letting Bebikh and Valov in. Puśtov is trying to bring in fresh energies as the type of game implemented requires a lot of physical expense.
Oleg Valov is at his debut in Premium Liiga after being signed from Volga Tver (a Russian Second Division club). What could be better than introducing yourself to your new club and fans with a goal? This is what he might have thought soon after 63' when he received the ball inside the box after a perfect movement and smashed it past Hansen for the 1-0 lead.
At this point you would think the game as a downhill for Infonet, if it were not for Aristov picking up his second yellow card and re-establishing the numerical balance. The episode breaks the Infonet momentum inspired by the goal and gives a fair bit of confidence to the guests.
From now own it will be much harder for Infonet to end the game at the same speed they started with. They still have the best chances as at 76' when on a three-against-two situation Valov sends in from the bottom line but his two teammates are both pushed against the goal.
For the last ten minutes of the game, Kuressaare go all-in as Zamogilnõi switches to 3-4-2 moving Indermitte as a forward to exploit his height on long balls. It is a smart move as Joel is quite effective in keeping the Infonet rear-guard busy till the end of the game as the best asset the guests can offer are long balls into the box. The increased push makes Kure risk something on Infonet's counterattacks on a couple of occasions with Valov (79' and 86').
However, expect the unexpected: at 90´+1 Pelle Pohlak collects a ball outside the box after Igonen had pushed it away on corner kick and he smashes it past the young goalkeeper. 1-1
There is even space for a small controversy as the referee of the game, Kristo Tohver, reaches the second assistant, Jaan Roos, for some explanation on the goal occasion. It looks like someone in offside might have covered Igonen's visual.
However Tohver, after a quick discussion with his assistant, confirms that the goal is allowed. Kuressaare men can celebrate fully the un-hoped for equalizer.
It is the last emotion of a strange game, dominated under every point of view by Infonet: Puśtov men were unable to concretize the supremacy and bring home a larger result and eventually the three points.
Does this result change anything for Kuressaare in the relegation fight?
Not much in terms of points and table: the 14 points gap shortens to 13, however, psychologically, Pohlak's late goal might work as a booster for next game in Saaremaa on Tuesday when Infonet will pay another visit to the island. It might not be over yet for the Vikings.
The relegation zone marked the loss of all the other competitors: Kalev (0-5 Flora), Narva Trans (0-2 Sillamäe) and Tammeka (0-2 Levadia).
Paide can be considered safe having 26 points distance from Kuressaare (with 9 games left till the end of the season): they're too far to aspire for a medal (17 points from Sillamäe) however the 13-points advantage over Kalev should be a sound asset to avoid the play-off spot.
Trans 24 (-18)
Kalev 24 (-27)
*One game to recover against Sillamäe