Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Triobet Baltic League resumes after winter break

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 4, 2010
FBK Kaunas

FBK Kaunas won the 2008 Triobet Baltic League beating Skonto Riga 2-1 in the final. Who will win the 2009-10 competition?

The Triobet Baltic League (TBL), a cross-border competition for teams from the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), resumes this week at the quarter-final stage of the competition. In comparison to the previous two editions that took place there is a more even spread of teams at this stage, geographically speaking, with Latvia and Lithuania having three teams left in the competition whilst Estonia, who had no teams involved in the last eight of the previous two tournaments, has two teams remaining in the competition. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” charts you through the short history of this tournament and will preview the quarter-final fixtures.

The original idea for this tournament came in 2006 after the only edition of the Baltic Champions’ Cup was played involving the champions from the individual Baltic domestic leagues in 2005. Lithuanian team FK Ekranas won the tournament on goal difference from Latvian champions Liepājas Metalurgs with Estonians TVMK Tallinn losing both their games. At this time the Scandinavian Royal League was also active with teams from Denmark, Sweden and Norway taking part and provided further inspiration for what was to become the Baltic League in its inaugural competition in 2007. Ironically the Baltic League has continued to thrive, especially under the sponsorship of betting firm Triobet (hence the tournament name), whilst the Royal League has been inactive since 2006-07 due to financial problems, scheduling issues and a lack of interest from supporters.

Perhaps the perceived lack of strength in depth in each of the individual football leagues in the Baltic region has whet the fans’ appetite for a Baltic league. Another factor could be the continuing success of basketball’s equivalent Baltic League (BBL) showing their footballing counterparts how a tournament of this nature can work. In the first edition of this competition Latvian clubs dominated with the inaugural TBL final being an all-Latvian affair between arch-rivals Liepājas Metalurgs and FK Ventspils with the former winning the two-legged final 8-2 on aggregate. In 2008 a record 7,000 crowd saw Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas win the second edition of the competition defeating Latvian record champions Skonto Riga 2-1 in a showpiece one game final played at Skonto Stadium.

The format has changed for the third edition of this tournament with the UEFA Champions League style group stages gone and replaced by a straight knock-out system involving the top sixteen teams in the region. Each nation is given five automatic places into the competition and then the country of the previous tournament’s winning club gets a sixth participant (hence Lithuania began this tournament with six teams). FK Vėtra Vilnius were given a bye into the quarter-final stage due to the expulsion from the tournament of FC Dinaburg, the Daugavpils based club having been involved in allegations of match fixing. The 2008 TBL champions FBK Kaunas also had no place in the 2009-10 edition due to their enforced relegation to the Lithuanian third division meaning that their place was taken by 7th placed FK Šiauliai. The new format seems to appeal to fans and sponsors with each round being a two-legged affair up until the final which will be a one-off game, the host venue for which will be decided later in the tournament.

The first two quarter-final, 1st leg matches take place on Tuesday with teams from differing nations facing up to each other. Flora Tallinn, joint-record champions of Estonia, play at home against FK Ekranas with both teams in winning form in their domestic leagues. Flora are just two points behind Meistriliiga leaders Levadia Tallinn and have won four of their six league games so far. FK Ekranas have won both of their opening games in Lithuania’s A Lyga including Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of FK Mažeikiai. In the other Tuesday night game Lithuanians FK Vėtra Vilnius, who have two wins from three games in their domestic league, plays against Latvian team FK Ventspils whose experiences in the 2009-10 UEFA Europa League group stage will stand them in good stead. With the new Latvian league season not starting until this Saturday FK Ventspils are a little out of match practice so this may give the Lithuanians a slight advantage.

Wednesday sees the tie of the round between current Latvian champions Liepājas Metalurgs and record Latvian champions Skonto Riga take place with the former hosting the first leg. There has been a rivalry between these two teams since Metalurgs became the first team to stop Skonto’s record of fourteen consecutive national championships in 2005 and games between these two giants of the Latvian game seldom disappoint. The fourth quarter-final is between Estonian champions FC Levadia Tallinn and FK Sūduva from Lithuania both of whom are unbeaten so far in their domestic leagues. FC Levadia beat their local rivals Flora 2-1 in Saturday’s derby match whilst FK Sūduva’s 0-0 draw at home to Žalgiris Vilnius allowed them to share top spot with FK Vėtra and FK Taurus, all of whom have seven points from nine after three matches.

TRIOBET BALTIC LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS (teams on left at home first)

FC Flora Tallinn (Estonia) v FK Ekranas (Lithuania)

FK Vetra Vilnius (Lithuania) v FK Ventspils (Latvia)

1st Leg 05/04/2010; 2nd Leg 05/05/2010

FHK Liepājas Metalurgs (Latvia) v Skonto Riga (Latvia)

FC Levadia Tallinn (Estonia) v FK Sūduva (Lithuania)

1st Leg 06/04/2010; 2nd Leg 04/05/2010

As an added bonus check out the goals from the 2008 Triobet Baltic League final here:

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