Estonian futsal: intrigue all the way

The play-offs are a special time when all the failures and achievements of the regular season remained in the past, and players often pull out matches on moral and willpower qualities. The first semi-final matches of the Estonian Championship finished completely differently than most experts and neutral fans expected. Baltic Futsal Marketing analyzes the events of the meetings that took place on the weekend.

“Narva United” approached the first match of the series against “Tartu Ravens” as a favorite.  The Narva team had not only a higher seeding, but in general they had a more even regular season than “Ravens”.  The only statistical factor spoke for the Tartussians: “ravens” didn’t lose to “United” in any of the league matches– an away victory 2:1  and draw 2:2 at home . And the first match of the semi-final series was also equal: “Tartu” went ahead twice, “Narva” tied the score twice, but the denouement came eight minutes before the end of the second half. “Ravens” took the lead for the third time, making a strong bid for victory,  and  the hosts did not have much time to save the game. Naturally, “United” rushed to attack, but the visitors were able to turn this situation in their favor, sending the ball into an empty net. 4: 2, “Tartu Ravens” took the first match, having managed to put the skeptics to shame, who predicted  “United’s” easy exit to the final. After the match  “Narva” club President Alexander Dmitriev admitted that he was extremely dissatisfied with the first half, acknowledging the weak play of his team in attack: “ In the first half we didn’t have enough spirit, perhaps affected by the short break,  that we had after finishing the regular season, it was felt that our rival was toned. We played the second half better, but it wasn’t enough for  the final victory. I hope that the third and fourth halves in the second match will be much better. We played in the attack poorly, the combination game was practically impossible, and we have a day and a half  to fix it.”

Probably, the bugs correction wasn’t in vain, and the second match of the series  in Tartu was held already under a different scenario, although “Narva” had to fight back once again. “United” quickly opened the scoring through Eric Grigoriev’s efforts,  but they conceded twice even before the break, getting close to the edge – relegation from the play-offs seriously loomed over the horizon. By the middle of the half Grigoriev managed to equalize the score, but two minutes later “Ravens” took the lead again – 3:2. Nevertheless,  the last five minutes remained for the guests: first Semyon Fedotov equalized at the 37th minute, and a minute and a half later Eric Grigoriev scored a hat-trick, putting “Narva” ahead. The final score was set by Vitaly Kutuzov, who hit the hosts’ empty goal from the center circle. 5:3, “Narva United” saves the season from collapse  and now everything will be decided in the third match of the series. Definitely, the main sensation of the semi-final series took place in Viymsi, where the undisputed winner of the regular season “Smsrakha” failed to defeat “Kosmos” from the capital.

Tallinners haven’t beaten one of their most crucial rivals since October 2019, but at last they managed to break this unlucky streak. Both teams played an almost perfect match in defense,  playing with maximum concentration and as a result – only two goals scored in regulation time. In extra time the competitors exchanged goals again : Victor Kravtsov put the hosts ahead, and a minute before the end of extra – time Maxim Babyak implemented a ten-meter shot, turning the match into a series of penalty kicks.  In this peculiar lottery the football-players of “Kosmos”  were stronger, winning the  series 3:1. 

After the game Manager of “Kosmos” Stepan Chernousov  admitted that  the standard situation execution was a key factor in this match: “ In training we specially practiced ten-meters shots, because we had almost never scored them against “Viymsi” . In the final two years ago, and  in last year’s  semi-finals, and in the regular season we didn’t  take our chances, but finally our work paid off – due to the implemented ten-meter shot we could save this match and win”.

Chernousov also noted that on the eve of semi-finals  “Kosmos” switched to a more intensive training schedule : “ We trained for this match systematically, watched  their last games, analyzed our face-to-face meetings.  We switched to a tight training schedule, classes were held almost every day. The task of the coaching staff  was that we should play very carefully in defense and keep our concentration the entire game. I would like to single out our goalkeeper Vadim Belyakov , who kept a cool head  the whole game, confidently defending our rear.”

According to Chernousov, in the second match “Kosmos” will be ready to surprise its opponent again: “ It’s quite difficult to analyze the  last match until our emotions have cooled down,  next week we’ll watch the game, highlight a number of key moments  and prepare for the second match. I think we’ll make some changes compared to the first meeting. We also played this match quite different, not as we did it in the regular season, so there will be definitely some changes”.