Rowdy fans mar win over Russia

  • 2002-04-04
  • Aleksei Gunter

Estonian briefly shocked the soccer world last week with an upset 2-1 win over World Cup-bound Russia on March 27, the first match between the two on Estonian soil in 79 years.

The celebrations were briefly overshadowed by 26 arrests following scuffles between police and Russian supporters.

Estonian forward Andrus Oper, who plays club soccer for Aalborg in Denmark, led off the scoring with a powerful shot past Russian goalkeeper Rouslan Nigmatullin in the 10th minute.

Russia's Vladimir Beschastnyh of Spartak Moscow responded eight minutes later, beating Estonian goalkeeper Martin Kaalma one-on-one to make it 1-1.

The second half featured storming attacks and tension-raising corner kicks from both sides.

The game-winning goal came off a sloppy tackle from Russia's Igor Tschugainov. Estonian forward Aleksander Saharov passed to Oper who drove the game winner into the back of the net in the final minute.

The Estonian team was weaker technically and beat the Russians with long passes and defense.

Estonian coach Arno Piipers called the victory a historic achievement.

"I'm glad I'm the coach of the Estonian team at this very moment," he said following the game.

The game should help prepare Russia for its World Cup matches against Japan and Tunisia, both defensive teams.

Russian coach Mikhail Gershkovich said after the game that most of his players deserved "low marks."

"Estonia played as a team," he said.

The win was Estonia's second upset of a team headed for the World Cup recently.

Estonia beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 in a friendly match held in Italy. But while the game against Russia was a friendly, several fans in attendance took it a bit more seriously.

About 30 supporters of the Russian team were arrested during the match. Speculation abounded days before the game about how the match would play out in the bleachers.

The Estonian media called the fans who traveled from Russia for the match the most aggressive to have ever visited Estonia.

Problems began hours before the match when a Russian fan reportedly set off a firecracker in the face of an Estonia supporter, requiring stitches.

The fans from Russia refused to remove a sign that read "1940-2002. The masters are back." Police entered the stands and began verbally sparring with the Russian fans.

Following Russia's goal, a group of Russian fans burned the Estonian flag and a police riot squad brandishing night sticks stormed the fans.

Twenty-six fans were arrested, four of them were local. They were jailed overnight and fined 1,000 kroons ($60) each.

Three fans required medical attention.