Away Days: FK Jelgava v FK Jūrmala-VV
“Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reports on the 2009-10 Latvian Cup final between FK Jelgava and FK Jūrmala-VV:
Having been in Glasgow for the Scottish Cup final over the weekend I was very much looking forward to going back to a favourite country of mine to watch another surprise domestic cup final. However it seemed that my Monday afternoon flight to Riga would be cancelled after further disruption caused by the now (in)famous Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Thankfully the Gods had decided that I was to be one of the lucky ones to get away and, after arriving as scheduled on Monday evening, it was with great excitement that I went to Wednesday evening’s footballing showpiece in the Latvian capital.
Post-independence Latvian football has been dominated by three teams since the national league began in 1992; Skonto Riga, Liepājas Metalurgs and FK Ventspils. The domestic cup, known locally as Latvijas Kauss, has produced a little unpredictability from time to time. FK Jelgava, situated 45 kilometres away from Riga, had previously tasted success in this competition three times before under their previous guise of RAF Jelgava. FK Jurmala, based in a seaside resort just 25 kilometres away from Riga, had never reached this stage of the national cup before but, despite the history, were still minor favourites to win their first domestic honour. In any case it would be intriging to see who would etch their name into the trophy and follow another surprise winner, FC Daugava from Latvia’s second city of Daugavpils, who won the cup in 2008.
Before the game kicked off I had my traditional pre-match pint in the Calcio Bar which is a part of Skonto stadium. Suddenly a familiar face appeared in the distance and as he walked towards me I said to him “it’s Guntis Indriksons, isn’t it?” to which the bemused man shook his head and said no. I thought for a moment why I had got it wrong but it turned out that I had mistaken the General Secretary of the Latvian Football Federation with the President of the same organization. Some seconds later, having identified the man by his actual name of Jānis Mežeckis, I apologized for my mistake and he was kind enough to take a couple of minutes out from his pre-match schedule to talk to me about Latvian football and pose for a photo (see top). After shaking hands and wishing him well I entered the stadium to see a decent crowd building up for the game. Bearing in mind that the average attendance of the domestic league in 2009 was a mere 448, the crowd for Wednesday’s final was nearly ten times that so it was a good number by Latvian standards especially in a game not involving any of the big three.
The two teams came out at approximately 19:35 local time ahead of kick-off with everybody in the crowd rising for the national anthem before the action got under way. In a tight first half FK Jūrmala-VV, playing in a dark blue kit, just about got the better of the exchanges with a beautifully taken goal from Dmitrijs Paplavskis, turning with his back to goal to guide a right-footed shot home, giving the seasiders a 1-0 lead at the break. It was in the second half that the action really started to get exciting and, just ten minutes after the re-start, Igors Lapkovskis restored parity for FK Jelgava with a well-taken volley from the edge of the penalty area. As the second half went on the quality of the game dipped slightly but this was more than compensated for by the effort and spirit both teams were putting into the game, both believing that their name was on the trophy. With just fifteen minutes to go FK Jūrmala-VV had the advantage once more when Valērijs Čistjakovs scored from close range after the FK Jelgava goalkeeper Marks Bogdanovs could only parry Romāns Bessakovs’ shot into his path. But if there’s one thing you could count on in this year’s Latvian Cup it’s that FK Jelgava wouldn’t give up and, after their heroic comebacks against Liepājas Metalurgs and Skonto Riga in the two previous rounds, they managed to equalize for a second time when Oļegs Malašenoks was brought down in the box with Valērijs Redjko on hand to slot home the resulting spot kick.
With no further scoring in normal or extra-time the game went to a penalty shoot-out. The fans of FK Jelgava, amongst whose supporters I had sat alongside all evening, now firmly believed that their name was on the cup given what had happened in previous rounds. However, after both teams had scored with their first attempts in the penalty shoot-out, FK Jelgava were the first team to miss one when their second attempt was saved by Jūrmala keeper Artūrs Biezais. Further penalties were scored by both sides to make the score 4-3 to FK Jūrmala-VV with one spot kick left each. After FK Jelgava converted their final kick it was up to Romans Nagumānovs to score for Jūrmala. But, instead of celebrating a famous win, he struck his shot against the crossbar sending the penalty shoot-out into sudden death with a 4-4 scoreline after their designated five penalties. After trading a further successful spot kick each it was FK Jelgava who gained the initiative going ahead 6-5 with FK Jūrmala-VV needing to take at least one more kick. Unfortunately for FK Jūrmala-VV it proved to be the final kick of the evening when Gatis Kalniņš’ soft effort down the middle saved by Bogdanovs with his legs to spark scenes of ecstasy in the FK Jelgava section of the stadium where flares were lit to signal a colourful conclusion to the night’s showpiece. All that remained was for LFF General Secretary Mažeckis to hand over the trophy to jubilant FK Jelgava captain Valērijs Redjko who, along with his team-mates, will enter the 2010-11 UEFA Europa League at the second qualifying round.
Watch Match Highlights HERE: