Fans Friendly: England Vs Estonia
The England supporters team had a point to prove against Estonia having suffered a heavy defeat in Tallinn back in November 2014. With a valid excuse to swerve out of work early on a Friday afternoon a good sized squad had registered for the home fixture which was held within earshot of Wembley at Stonebridge Pavillion.
The Estonian team also had a large squad of around 35 players and were really well backed by their travelling support. The Estonian fans certainly made their voice heard during a rousing rendition of ‘Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm’ – which translates as: ‘My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy’. The England team look rather sheepish in comparison when the Estonian anthem was promptly followed on by a version of the Hakka!– a twenty second YouTube advert rudely interrupting ‘God save the Queen’.
With the comedy moment aside, referee Dave Beverley got proceedings under way and it was England, in all white, who started like the All Blacks; being firm into the tackle and driving Estonia back into their own half. England looked confident and were having a lot of joy from wide positions with new recruits Eden and Aiden both impressing on their full debuts. Around ten minutes into the half England made their pressure pay by latching onto to a mistake from the Estonian centre-back. James Clarke crossed to striker Gary Shanahan whose shot was parried by the keeper only to be neatly turned in to the net by Craig Tullis.
England continued to dominate the opening 20mins with only mild flashes of brilliance from the Estonian no.7 on the left wing threatening the England defence. It was Alex Moore who was able to extend England’s managing to control a defensive clearance on his knee and the hitting delicious volley from 25 years which cannoned in off the left hand upright.
At 2-0 down the Estonian team made use of their plentiful substituted and started to cause England problems with two youthful but very quick centre-forwards running at the England defence. Keeper Mel Kenny was forced into several saves before Estonia put themselves back in the game making it 2-1.
Estonia had come back into the game towards the end of the first half but even the neutral support (not that there were any!) would have to say England had edged it going into half time. Five minutes into the second half, England were able to extend their lead when Craig Tullis pounced on a stray backpass and rounded the last defended to slot past the keeper to chalk up his brace.
What had been an entertaining game up until this point then took several twists. Firstly, England left-back Dave Oakley limped off with a hamstring injury. Then a bizarre incident saw Craig Tullis skip past the last defender and through on goal to complete his hat-trik – only to hear the referee blow-up for an earlier infringement from the Estonian full-back. With shades of Gareth Bale’s goal against Barcelonia, referee Dave Beverley had done well to spot the infringement but had underestimated Tullis’s pace and blown up rather than playing the advantage.
Estonia used their subs to good effect in the second half and their high pressing game paid off when they made it 3-2 on around the 60 minute mark. England’s luck didn’t get any better when Craig Tullis was bundled over in the box. Referee Dave Beverly took a good long look but decided it was just a tangle of legs and waived away the penalty shouts.
As England tired, Estonia again made good use of their subs and ran at England’s weary midfield – both the number 3 and 7 in particular looking dangerous in possession. With only 5 minutes to go Estonia equalised much to the delight of their travelling support. With the match poised at 3-3 the game really could have gone either way. Despite being on the back-foot, England used their sole striker as an outlet-ball to good effect and looked dangerous on the counter. This time it was Barrie Tullis this time who unlocked the Estonian defence to put son Craig Tullis through on goal. For the second time in half an hour, England’s centre forward was hauled down inside the box and this time Mr.Beverley had no choice but to point to the spot and award a penalty.
On a hat-trik and with just over three minutes on the clock, Craig Tullis brushed himself down and lined up to take the kick. The penalty was stuck cleanly but without any real venom. The Estonian keeper launched himself to his left hand side and pulled off an excellent last-gasp save.
It had been an end-to-end game played in good spirit throughout. Although it was a friendly, the remaining few minutes were extremely tense. Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more drama, the Estonian team carved out one last opportunity – the number 7 was instrumental again, slotting the ball through to the Estonian striker who then squared to his team-mate to slot home past keeper Mel Kenny. The Estonian players reeled off to celebrate with the fans with what was almost the last kick of the game. With more than a suspicion of off-side England could have felt slightly hard-done by but congratulations must also go to the Estonian who kept going to the end and finishing the stronger of the two teams.
A special thanks goes out to Mari from the Estonian fans association for making the game possible and to our Estonian guests for a great game good time in the Torch pub afterwards.
A full set of pictures from the game are available courtesy of the official Estonian photographer ‘Brit Maria T’: https://flic.kr/s/aHskiuoVnS
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