JK Nõmme Kalju today claimed their maiden Estonian title with three rounds to spare after a 1-0 First League win at FC Kuressaare.
Kristen Viikmäe scored the only goal of a game postponed from the second matchday of the season to complete the task given to Nõmme Kalju by their club president five years ago – namely, to win the league during the next half-decade. The 33-year-old forward chose the moment of his team's post-match celebrations to announce his retirement from playing.
The Rose Panthers had beaten Kuressare three times already this term – 2-0, 6-1 and 9-0 – but this was always going to be a test of nerve for the Tallinn-based side. Although the visitors set the pace throughout, the club from Saaremaa Island defended well and broke to effect. The introduction of substitute Sergei Terehhov helped the Nõmme Kalju cause, however, and they soon won a penalty, but Kuressare goalkeeper Riido Reiman saved from Juri Jevdokimov – the champions-elect's 13-goal top scorer.
In the end it was left to Viikmäe to seal the fairy tale for Igor Prins's men. Brought on as an 83rd-minute subsitute, he made the vital breakthrough with his first touch barely 60 seconds later. Midfielder Damiano Quintieri delivered the cross and Viikmäe duly converted, from close range, the game's outstanding chance.
The match winner was delighted to bow out on a high. "I made the decision to retire a few months ago. It's 16 years since I turned professional and now it's time to do something different in life," said Viikmäe, capped 114 times by his country. "I have had two brilliant years at Nõmme Kalju. Last season we were second and now we've got the title."
Coach Prins, who also landed two championships at the helm of FC Levadia Tallinn, admitted that Kuressaare had made it difficult to secure the climactic three points. "We were eager to settle the matter today. But I didn't expect it would be so hard." FC Flora Tallinn and Levadia sit 14 points adrift of the new champions who now have 88 from 33 matches.
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