The Faroe Islands secure Nations League C safety after a tense 1-1 draw against Lithuania in Vilnius on September 22nd.
Rocked by the recent news that influential captain Hallur Hansson will be out for at least nine months (get well soon, Hallur!), the Faroes produced a solid but unspectacular display against a poor Lithuanian side.
In a scrappy first quarter, the Faroes dominated possession and nearly scored on the 18th minute when Jóannes Bjartalíð blasted over after a lovely cutback from Meinhard Olsen, an effort he should have at least got on target. Meinhard Olsen followed this up shortly after with a decent attempt straight at the Lithuanian keeper as the Faroes started to up the pressure.
The goal finally did come from the next attack as Jákup Andreasen’s head got on the end of Bjartalíð’s inviting in-swinging free-kick. And the game was firmly in the away sides’ hands.
And on the 35th minute, they nearly doubled the lead after a well-worked corner kick ended with Jóan Símun Edmundsson firing agonizingly across the gaping Lithuanian goal.
However, against the run of play, on the 40th minute, Lithuania midfielder Vykintas Slivka put the ball in the back of the net with a neat finish. It was initially called offside, but after a lengthy VAR review, the decision was overturned and parity restored.
Minutes later, the dynamic Bjartalíð nearly gave the Faroes the lead again with an incredible 30-yard header which the Lithuanian keeper tipped around the post. It would have made some goal!
The second half was a tense and scrappy affair as both teams cancelled each other out.
The first real chance came 20 minutes after the restart, with Klæmint Olsen just unable to get on the end of Bjartalíð’s teasing ball. And Lithuania nearly won it at the end when their best player Arvydas Novikovas, shot just wide of Gunnar Nielsen’s goal.
But the Faroe Islands won’t mind the scrappy nature of the second half, as they got the vital point required to ensure Nations League survival, and in doing so, relegating Lithuania to League D — a feat enjoyed by the 50 or so Faroese fans who made the long journey, and sang non-stop throughout the game.
Here are my player ratings:
1) Gunnar Nielsen: 7/10 — Little to do, hardly had to make a save.
14) Gilli Rólantsson: 7/10 — Lots of energy down the right side as always.
13) Hördur Askham: 7/10 — Caught ball watching for the goal, but other than that, had a calm and composed match.
16) Gunnar Vatnhamar: 7.5/10 — Won everything in the air and was solid throughout.
3) Viljormur Davidsen (C): 7/10 — Deputizing captain brought in his typical solid shift.
7) Jóannes Bjartalíð: 8.5/10 (MOTM) — A danger throughout the game and capped it off with a stunning assist.
20) René Shaki Joensen: 7.5/10 — Worked hard in the middle, with poise on the ball.
22) Jákup Andreasen: 8/10 — Battled so well in the middle of the park and got yet another goal against Lithuania.
18) Meinhard Olsen: 7/10 — A danger throughout the tie, holding the ball well in tight spots.
9) Jóan Símun Edmundsson: 7/10 — Some lovely touches and skills; the goals will come soon!
11) Klæmint Olsen: 7/10 — Worked hard up top, winning numerous free-kicks.
21) Patrik Johannesen (for Jóan Símun Edmundsson 77 minute): N/A
2) Mads Boe Mikkelsen (for Meinhard Olsen 82 minute): N/A
5) Sonni Nattestad (for Klæmint Olsen 90 minute): N/A
15) Heðin Hansen (for René Joensen 90 minute): N/A
Coach Håkan Ericson: 7/10 — A point to secure safety away from home is a favorable result, but after a dominant opening, Ericson will be disappointed that the team allowed Lithuania back into the contest and produced a pretty lackluster second half.
As for sealing safety in the Nations League, Ericson stated: “Proud of the boys for getting promoted and staying in the divison, we played a good game today, but not as comfortable as I would have hoped in build up play.”
Next up for the Faroe Islands is the last fixture of the Nations League campaign against Turkey at Tórsvøllur tonight, with a 19:45 kick-off. Let’s hope the boys can finish on a high.