It turned out to be a memorable night for Paide Linnameeskond fans, but for a long time things didn’t seem to be going their way. Leading 3-2 in the first leg of the UEFA Conference League preliminary round with Dinamo Tbilisi, even a draw in the evening would have been enough to send the Estonians through.
After a scoreless first half, there was a sense of inevitability about Dinamo’s opener, with Paide seemingly content to hold on to their slim first-leg advantage.
Substitute Ousmane Camara was a constant threat for Dinamo, and it was his cross from the left, which was turned by Davit Skhirtladze to give the visitors a 1-0 lead on the night, and make it 3-3 in total.
With the away goals rule no longer in effect for this year’s competition and neither side able to snatch a late winner, the match headed into extra time.
Now momentum was everything with Dinamo, and just three minutes into the extra half hour, Belarus striker Dmitry Antilevsky converted another Camara cross to make it 2-0.
Just when it seemed there was no way back for Paide, the tide began to turn.
Dinamo dropped deep to defend their lead, inviting a period of pressure from the Estonian side. With just five minutes of extra time remaining on the clock, 18-year-old Gambian Paide striker Ebrima Singhateh burst into the penalty area, where he was brought down by a weary challenge from the No. Dinamo, Simon Gbegnon. The referee didn’t hesitate to point to the spot, with Singhateh stepping up to convert from twelve yards and make it level at 4-4.
With the scores even after extra time, it was a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
The first five spot-kicks either way were deftly dispatched, with neither Paide keeper Mihkel Aksalu nor Dinamo’s Andrés Prieto about to make a save.
But, after Kristopher Piht put Paide ahead 6-5 in the shootout, it was Aksalu who became the hero, causing pandemonium among the home fans after he saved from Levan Kharabadze to dispatch the Estonian side in the next round. “It’s a very, very nice feeling, we can travel again,” Aksalu said after the game.
Paide head coach Karel Voolaid, but the result is due to strong competition for places in his team, and also praised his players for their patience. “A good bench has been one of our strengths this season. We have good, strong guys in the team which means we have competition (for places) and sometimes it’s hard to choose a line-up for a game. (Dinamo) played very well in the first half, controlled the game and were patient, but we kept a cool head in the second half, were patient at 1-0 and waited for the right moments.” , Voolaid said.
Paide will now face Armenian side Ararat-Armenia in the UEFA Conference League second preliminary round, with the matches set to take place on July 21 and 28.
Flora makes a mistake in Finland
Elsewhere, FC Flora Tallinn wondered where it all went wrong in their Conference League clash with Finnish side Seinäjoki. The Estonian side were knocked out of the competition 4-3 on aggregate after leading 3-0 in the tie with just 31 minutes of regulation time remaining.
After winning 1-0 at home in the first leg last week, Flora doubled their aggregate lead thanks to a 21st-minute header from Michael Lilander. Two minutes into the second half, Henrik Ojama made it 2-0 at Flora on the night and 3-0 on aggregate, with the Estonian side seemingly heading into the next round.
But then things started to go downhill for Flora. Seinäjoki received a penalty for a clumsy challenge from Henrik Pürg in the 59th minute, which was duly converted by England striker Jake Jervis, who added a second seven minutes later to level the scores on the night.
As Flora clung to a 3-2 aggregate lead, Ken Kallaste received two yellow cards in the space of a minute, the second for serious misconduct, leaving the Estonians with ten men. But they couldn’t hold out for long, with Jervis completing his hat trick in the 86th minute to extend the tie.
Things went from bad to worse for Flora, when Sergei Zenjov also picked up a second yellow card in the 111th minute. Two minutes later, Ville Tikkanen made it 4-2 on the night, sealing Seinäjoki’s win over Flora at 9 and knocking the Estonian side out of this year’s competition, 4-3 on aggregate. Seinäjoki will now play against Norwegian club Lilleström in the next round.
Paide Linnameeskond will face Ararat-Armenia in the UEFA Conference League second preliminary round, while Estonian champions FCI Levadia Tallinn will face Hibernians of Malta. The matches take place on July 21 and 28.