A penalty goal allowed Shkendija to celebrate a lone goal victory away to Estonian champions Kalju in the opening leg of the Champions League first qualifying round.
photo by KF Shkendija Tetovo: Agim ibraimi starts celebrating after converting the penalty
Manager Kjatip Osmani started with the following line-up: Zahov; Murati, Bejtulai, Musliu, Mici; Husmani, Alimi, Totre; Radeski, A. Ibraimi, B. Ibraimi. Newest signing Juan Felipe wasn’t available as it was too late to register him at UEFA, but he may play from the next round if Shkendija advances.
Shkendija was the better team in the opening minutes with keeping the ball and dominating the play. The first chance came in the 7th minute when after a good run forward from Agim Ibraimi who slided the ball in behind the defense to Radeski who hit his shot right at the home keeper.
The hosts had a good scoring opportunity in the 18th minute after a sloppy defending by Shkendija. Liliu came one on one with Zahov, but the Macedonian keeper was victorious.
In the 32nd minute Shkendija came very close to breaking the dead lock. Murati drilled a ball into Radeski who glanced his header onto the crossbar.
Ten minutes into the second half and Shkendija missed twice. First Besart Ibraimi hit a powerful free kick from about 25 meters and forced the keeper to tip it over his bar. Couple of minutes after that there was another brilliant chance for Radeski. The ball was headed out to him on the edge of the box, he took a touch and volleyed the ball way over the bar.
Ten minutes from time Shkendija was awarded a penalty kick after Andriy Markovych played with hand. A ball over the top from Alimi was misjudged by the defender who tried to shoulder the ball away but it hit his arm. Kalju had no complaints with the call as it an obvious penalty. Agim Ibraimi took the ball and sent it into the bottom right corner. Eventually Shkendija grabbed the lead.
A great run from Nafiu in the 89 minute could have ended with a second goal for Shkendija. He picked the ball up on the halfway line, drove into the box and looked to bend the ball into the far corner but his effort was saved by Londak. Injury time substitute Imeri had the last chance deep into the stoppage time when he dug the ball out from under his feet and got a good shot off but the goalkeeper beat it away.
The match ended with Shkendija claiming the 1:0 win. A road win without conceding, good result before the return leg in Skopje scheduled for the 16th. A win is a win, but not an encouraging performance from Shkendija. Kalju was terrible, so the inability to break them down in open play, and needing a penalty to win it, is concerning. The Shkendija attack is very much a concern. They look toothless. Besart Ibraimi still rusty following an ACL tear, Radeski just rusty (he too had ACL tear in 2018). Agim Ibraimi very predictable. Once the front line was Shkendija’s most powerful weapon, but now it is their worst part of the team. Hopefully with Juan Felipe things will start moving up to the better.
Kadriorg stadium in Tallinn
Kalju – Shkendija 0:1 (0:0)
Goals: 81′ (pen) Agim Ibraimi
Kalju: 96. Londark; 2. Kulinitš, 5. Uggè (C), 4. Avilov, 26. Markovych; 7. Mbu Alidor, 15. Subbotin; 9. Mašitšev (76′ 21. Klein), 17. Kirss (58′ 20. Volkov), 43. Paur; 11. Liliu.
Shkendija: 1. Zahov; 16. Murati, 4. Bejtulai, 6. Musliu, 3. Mici; 90. Husmani, 5. Alimi (C), 8. Totre (85′ 17. Zejnulai); 14. Radeski, 10. A. Ibraimi (90’+1 28. Imeri), 7. B. Ibraimi (77′ 23. Nafiu).
Yellow cards: Mašitšev, Kulinitš, Liliu, Markovych (K)
Red cards: /
Referee: Donald Robertson
Assistants: Graeme Stewart & Daniel McFarlane
Fourth official: Greg Aitken