UEFA Champions League debutants JK Nõmme Kalju made a fine start to life in Europe's elite club competition, holding experienced hosts HJK Helsinki to a goalless stalemate in their second qualifying round first leg.
The crowd of 7,000 saw little in the way of clear-cut opportunities, despite HJK dominating possession and keeping their opponents on the back foot for long periods. Led by the lively Sakari Mattila, HJK had plenty of shots, but found a compact Kalju defensive unit tough to break down, with goalkeeper Vitali Teleš rarely troubled as he dealt with a series of long-range efforts.
Kalju's attacks were few and far between for much of the contest, but midway through the second half, encouraged by their situation, the visitors carved out two good chances to score. Hidetoshi Wakui came closest, seeing his header strike the post on 54 minutes after beating HJK goalkeeeper Ville Wallén, while ten minutes later Tarmo Neemelo failed to hit the target from close range after a good pass from Eino Puri had picked him out.
Even the introduction of veteran striker Mikael Forssell in the second half failed to inspire the home side, who never found their rhythm. Kalju may live to regret those missed chances, yet for now Igor Prins' men have reason to be confident ahead of HJK's visit to Tallinn for the return match next Tuesday.
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