FLORA TALLINN 2
Sappinen 75, 88
M. Igonen, M. Lilander, H. Purg, M. Kusk, M. Lukka, M. Miller, M. Soomets, S. Zenjov, K. Vassiljev, H. Ojamaa, R. Sappinen.
N. Vella, F. Apap, L. Almeida, S. Raphael, A. Attard, J. Grech, J. Degabriele (77 U. Edafe), D. Vella, Z. Grech, Thaylor (77 W. Domoraud), A. Agius.
Referee Lazar Lukic (Serbia).
Yellow cards Agius, Raphael.
Red card: Raphael (H) 73.
Two late goals from Rauno Sappinen earned Flora Tallinn the edge over Hibernians in the opening leg of the first qualifying round of the Champions League played in Estonia on Tuesday.
It was a harsh result on the Paolites who for much of the match had managed to keep at bay a fitter Flora Tallinn side with goalkeeper Nicky Vella distinguishing himself with a string of fine saves.
However, the dismissal of Hibs defensive midfielder Raphael with 17 minutes to go, swayed the match in favour of the hosts who in no time scored two late goals through the prolific Sappinen to secure the advantage ahead of next week’s second leg at the Centenary Stadium.
Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra handed a debut to goalkeeper Nicky Vella who replaced the injured Matthew Calleja Cremona while upfront Brazilian forward Thaylor made his first appearance for the Paolites.
As expected, it was Flora Tallinn who held most of the possession for much of the first half with Hibernians showing great defensive organisation and trying to catch their opponents with swift transitions.
Flora came close on 15 minutes when Markus Soomets hit a thumping drive that was pushed away by Vella and from the rebound Henrik Ojamaa fired over.
Eleven minutes later, Ojamaa connects to Vassiljev’s corner kick but misses the target.
Seven minutes from the break, Vella came to Hibernians’ rescue when he pushed away Sergej Zenjov’s piledriver.
Hibs threatened three minutes from the break when Jurgen Degabriele’s cross found Thaylor who fired wide.
Just before half-time, Vella again thwarted the Estonians with a fine one-handed save on Sappinen’s dipping header.
After the break, Flora Tallinn kept up the pressure but it was Hibs who came close shy of the hour mark when Dunstan Vella hit a thumping drive that flew over.
On 68 minutes, Hibs goalkeeper Vella was alert Vassiljev’s firm drive from a free-kick.
Hibernians suffered a fatal blow on 73 minutes when Raphael was shown a second yellow card for a challenge on Ojamaa and was dismissed even though TV replays showed that he had touched the ball.
Flora soon capitalised on their numerical advantage as two minutes later Rauno Sappinen connected to Martin Miller’s cross and head past Vella.
Sappinen struck again two minutes from time when he beat the Paolites offside trap to shoot past Vella and seal Flora’s win.