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Season review: Estonia

Published: Thursday 13 December 2012, 9.31CET
JK Nõmme Kalju's cosmopolitan team finished top of the pile for the first time, with cup winners FC Levadia Tallinn ending as runners-up after turning to a new generation.
by Mikhail Malkin
from Tallinn
Season review: Estonia
Nõmme Kalju celebrate winning their maiden Estonian league title ©Raul Suurhans
Published: Thursday 13 December 2012, 9.31CET

Season review: Estonia

JK Nõmme Kalju's cosmopolitan team finished top of the pile for the first time, with cup winners FC Levadia Tallinn ending as runners-up after turning to a new generation.

A three-horse race for the Meistriliiga title ended with JK Nõmme Kalju finishing nine points clear of second-placed FC Levadia Tallinn – who lifted their seventh Estonian Cup – and winning the league for the first time. Champions in 2011, FC Flora Tallinn had to settle for third spot.  

Champions: JK Nõmme Kalju
Just after Nõmme Kalju gained entry to the top flight in 2007, club president Kuno Tehva set the target of winning the Meistriliiga within five years. Having come fifth, fifth, fourth and second in the seasons since that bold statement, the Tallinn team achieved Tehva's aim in 2012 – with three rounds to spare. The experience of coach Igor Prins proved vital in managing and moulding a cosmopolitan squad featuring players from Gambia, Italy, Japan, Poland and Portugal.

Cup final: JK Trans Narva 0-3 FC Levadia Tallinn
The climax to the Estonian Cup, which this year was named after legendary goalkeeper Evald Tipner, attracted a record crowd of 3,000. Following a disappointing 2011 campaign in which Levadia failed to land a trophy for the first time, the Tallinn side bounced back by collecting their seventh Estonian Cup.

European places*
JK Nõmme Kalju – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FC Levadia Tallinn – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Flora Tallinn – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
2013 Estonian Cup winner – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Igor Morozov (FC Levadia Tallinn)
Aged 23, Estonian international Morozov is one of the oldest players in a youthful Levadia squad. The captain top-scored for the capital outfit with 12 goals – some feat for a centre-back – three of them coming from the penalty spot in a remarkable 5-4 defeat of Flora.

One to watch: Zakaria Beglarishvili (FC Flora Tallinn)
In two years in Estonia, the Georgian Under-21 international has developed into a true leader. Technically proficient, particularly in the areas of ball control and dribbling, the 22-year-old midfielder has benefited from the experience of almost 75 league appearances. His haul of 17 goals in 28 top-flight outings was bettered by only two players.

Honourable mentions also go to Flora midfielder Karl-Eerik Luigend – who skippered Estonia on home soil in the 2012 UEFA European Under-19 Championship – and Levadia's 20-year-old former futsal international Ilja Antonov, whose debut Meistriliiga campaign culminated in a first senior cap for the Baltic state.

Surprise package: FC Levada Tallinn
Prior to the season Levadia parted company with all their most experienced players and turned to their own academy products and reserve team players. Morozov at 23 was their oldest outfield player before one-time national team forward Ingemar Teemer joined them in July and added some fire power. This campaign proved that Levadia are on the right path as they claimed the Estonian Cup and ended second in the league, rehabilitating themselves after the disappointment of 2011.

Leading scorer: Vladislav Ivanov (JK Sillamäe Kalev), 23 goals

Number: 5
Years it took Nõmme Kalju to earn their first Estonian crown and in the process realise the goal of their ambitious president.

Relegated: none
FC Viljandi withdrew from the competition, giving JK Tammeka Tartua a reprieve. Second-from-bottom JK Kalev Tallinn beat Rakvere JK Tarvas in the relegation-promotion play-off.

Promoted: FC Infonet

Quote
"It is 16 years since I turned professional and now it's time to do something different in life. I have had two brilliant years at Nõmme Kalju. Last season we were second and now we've got the title."
Kristen Viikmäe, 33, announces his retirement after netting in the 1-0 win at FC Kuressaare which secured Nõmme Kalju the championship.

Last updated: 13/12/12 15.29CET

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