By Margus Luik
NK Gorica are close to a second qualifying round tie against Danish champions FC København after an excellent away victory at FC Flora in Tallinn.
Estonian title-holders Flora dominated the early stages of this first leg but crucially allowed their Slovenian visitors to take the upper hand through Miran Srebrnic. The rest of the scoring came in a dramatic last quarter of an hour, which also featured a missed penalty from the luckless Vjatšeslav Zahovaiko, although he did manage to get on the scoresheet eventually.
Flora started brightly, with several chances falling Zahovaiko's way but each one was spurned. It was to prove costly as Gorica defender Srebrnic opened the scoring from his side's first attack in the 30th minute. It was a rare highlight in a tense first half with neither side seemingly willing to take the initiative.
The home team started the second half in determined fashion but Zahovaiko was again unable to score when presented with chances to equalise. Again, Flora were made to pay with Admir Kršic extending Gorica's lead in the 73rd minute after a mistake by Flora goalkeeper Martin Kaalma. This signalled the start of an action-packed period that was unlike anything seen earlier in the contest.
First, Flora had the chance to pull one back when Joel Lindpere put Zahovaiko through on goal, only for Gorica goalkeeper Mitja Pirih to bring him down. Zahovaiko stepped up to take the spot-kick himself only to see Pirih deny him with a fine save. To make things worse for Zahovaiko, Pirih set his side on a quick counterattack, which finished with a goal for Bosnia-Herzegovnian striker Aleksandar Rodic.
Goal at last
Zahovaiko finally made amends by pulling one back for his team from a goalmouth scramble nine minutes from time. However, Gorica went up the other end and scored again inn the 90th minute through Saša Panic, following Kaalma's poor mis-kick. There was still time, however, for Flora to score again when substitute Sander Post scored in added time with a powerful low shot from 18 metres two minutes into added time.
Flora have it all to do if they are to progress from the first qualifying round. The Estonian champions have failed to win in eleven consecutive European games and their first task in Slovenia next Wednesday will be to see if they can end that run. With a two-goal advantage, Gorica look the most likely to be meeting FCK in the next round.