On Saturday evening, the Faroe Islands came from a goal behind to beat Lithuania 2-1 in the relegation 6-pointer, thanks to goals from Viljormur Davidsen and Jákup Andreasen to claim their first Nations League C points in a memorable encounter at Tórsvøllur. Furthermore, it was the nation’s first competitive victory in 249 days, a triumph the Faroese faithful won’t forget for some time!
In team news, coach Håkan Ericson made three changes from the defeat against Luxembourg on Tuesday, with Jóannes Bjartalíð and Jákup Andreasen replacing the suspended René Shaki Joensen and Sølvi Vatnhamar. Which also made for a reshuffle in positions, with Gilli Rólantsson dropping back to right-back and Bjartalíð taking up the wing role. Captain Hallur Hansson, who has been suffering from a knock, was rested on the bench, with striker Patrik Johannesen taking his spot in the starting 11. This also meant experienced left-back Viljormur Davidsen was awarded the captain’s armband in Hallur’s absence.
The Faroes started the match brightly with Jákup Andreasen volleying a glorious chance over the bar in the opening passages. So, it was somewhat against the run of play that Lithuania took the lead on 5 minutes through the clinical Fedor Černych, who swept the ball home after some sloppy Faroes defending.
The Faroes were not to be deterred by the setback, however, with Andreasen missing a superb 1-1 opportunity minutes later, shooting straight at Lithuania keeper Džiugas Bartkus after some clever Faroese build-up play.
On 17 minutes, the Faroe Islands had the chance to restore parity when striker Klæmint Olsen was judged to have been brought down in the box, with the referee awarding a soft penalty to the home side. Stand-in captain Viljormur Davidsen duly obliged, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way with his cool spot kick and score the first Faroese goal of the Nations League campaign. And based on the opening quarter, a justified equaliser.
The next 20 minutes was a pretty even affair, with both nations cancelling each other out and, akin to a boxing match, trying to size up their opponents. Odmar Færø received a needless yellow card 5 minutes before the break, after a challenge on the keeper Bartkus, and as a result, will miss the next game away to Luxembourg, a substantial blow for Landsliðið, as Odmar has cemented his place in the teams back-line.
Just as the game seemed to be marauding towards half-time all square, out of nowhere, Andreasen’s left-footed curler from the edge of the box nestled in off the post. Some way to open your international goalscoring account. And praise must also go to the industrious Meinhard Olsen, whose sublime lay-off allowed Andreasen to take the spectacular effort.
With 3 goals scored in a chaotic first-half, the second had a lot to live up to, and understandably it was a much tenser and tight affair, with neither side wanting to concede further. The first real moment of note occurred in the 56th minute when the dangerous Černych’s powerful header from a corner was spectacularly headed off the line from Davidsen, saving a certain goal in the process. A warning of what the away side could do.
This prompted Håkan Ericson to make some changes to help deter the growing Lithuania pressure. Hallur Hansson, Sonni Nattestad and Ári Mohr Jónsson added some much-needed energy and grit to proceedings, empowering the Faroes to take control of the contest. Hansson even nearly scored a third goal in the dying embers with his effort from a perfect Davidsen cross hitting the post, keeper, then post again, before the keeper fortuitously claimed the loose ball.
But the miss was not to count for much, as the Faroe Islands saw out the rest of the tie with relative ease and capped off a spirited comeback with 3 precious points. It was also just the second Faroese victory against Lithuania in 10 attempts.
Celebration ensued around Tórsvøllur, showcasing the special bond between players and fans in this stoic nation.
Here are my player ratings:
1) Gunnar Nielsen: 8/10 — A calm head in goal, handled everything expertly without being forced into any really challenging saves.
9) Gilli Rólantsson: 8.5/10 — Imposing performance in the right back role, especially in defensive terms, handled the dangerous Novikovas excellently.
15) Odmar Færø: 7.5/10 — Warrior at the back, but a silly yellow card means he will miss the game in Luxembourg next week.
13) Hørður Askham: 6.5/10 — Sadly had to be replaced after just 25 minutes due to injury, so hard to gauge a true rating.
3) Viljormur Davidsen: 9/10 (MOTM) — The stand-in skipper gave a true captain’s performance, a goal, goal-bound interception and an all-round first-class display.
7) Jóannes Bjartalíð: 8/10 — Has a real quality left foot; his cross led to the penalty, an encouraging showing and hopefully more to come from the mercurial talent.
22) Jákup Andreasen: 8/10 — A memorable debut goal for the national side, a couple of iffy moments on the ball, but was a constant threat to the Lithuania goal.
16) Gunnar Vatnhamar: 7.5/10 — Disciplined and dedicated performance, vital role in shielding the defence.
18) Meinhard Olsen: 8/10 — Constant menace down the left-hand side, getting better and better with the national team.
21) Patrik Johannesen: 6.5/10 — Worked hard without having too much impact on proceedings.
11) Klæmint Olsen: 6.5/10 — Same as Patrik!
4) Heini Vatnsdal (for Hørður Askham 25th minute): 7.5/10 — Replaced the injured Askham and fit into the back-line immaculately, staked a real case for himself to start the next match.
6) Hallur Hansson (for Jákup Andreasen 66th minute): 7/10 — The captain added some steel and calm in the middle of the park just when Lithuania were asserting themselves. Unlucky not to score in the dying embers.
5) Sonni Nattestad (for Odmar Færø 66th minute): 7/10 — Mopped up everything at the back during a nervy period of the match.
19) Ári Mohr Jónsson (for Meinhard Olsen 66th minute): 6.5/10 — Gave the side some crucial energy when it was needed most.
14) Jóan Símun Edmundsson (for Patrik Johannesen 83rd minute): N/A
Håkan Ericson: 8/10 — After mounting pressure recently, the coach delivered the goods. His changes were vindicated, with Bjartalíð and Andreasen performing well. Also made smart tactical substitutes, with the introduction of Hansson and Nattestad settling the game down.
Despite being a scrappy match at times, victory was imperative, and the players prevailed. A battling conquest endured and celebrated by all the 2500 devout supporters inside the Tórsvøllur, who roused the players through every touch, clearance and challenge. The very embodiment of Faroese football.