Latvia: Skonto big winners as Metalurgs beat Ventspils (+video)
The Latvian Vīrsliga took another interesting twist in the championship race today as Skonto Riga now enjoy a five point lead over their nearest title rivals FK Ventspils. After Skonto had put a dent into Liepājas Metalurgs’ title ambitions last week it was to be Skonto, Latvia’s most successful club, who would be celebrating again after this weekend’s round of games went very much in their favour. Early Sunday afternoon saw Metalurgs, the defending champions, start the day in fourth place after FC Daugava’s 1-0 win over FK Jaunība Riga saw the team from Latvia’s second city of Daugavpils leapfrog Metalurgs. If the champions were to regain any title ambitions they had to beat FK Ventspils away from home in the game known as the “Derby of Kurzeme”, named after the region home to the two cities on Latvia’s Baltic coast.
The game started off nervously but there were a few chances for either side but for the first fourty five minutes neither side had their shooting boots on and the game remained goalless at the break. The second half was a different game altogether with the champions going two goals up by the 53rd minute mark thanks to strikes from Kristaps Grebis and Takafumi Akahoshi. The home side won a penalty kick with just a quarter of an hour remaining and Jurijs Žigajevs halved the deficit from the spot but this didn’t deter Metalurgs from attacking their hosts and the game was sealed with another goal for Grebis in the 77th minute and the game was put to bed by Jurģis Kalns sixty seconds into stoppage time. There was still enough time for Žigajevs to score his second of the game for FK Ventspils but by then the damage was done and the champions had got their season back on track.
WATCH FK VENTSPILS v LIEPAJAS METALURGS HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
This result meant that Skonto Riga could increase their lead in the standings with a win over SK Blāzma Rēzekne and Alexandrs Starkovs’ men would do that in fine style. Brazilian Nathan Junior has been amongst the goals this season and he bagged a brace to give Skonto a two goal lead after 24 minutes and the lead would be increased two minutes later by Andrejs Perepļotkins to give the capital club a 3-0 lead at the break. In the second half Aleksandrs Cauņa made it 4-0 just two minutes after the restart and he would score his second of the game on 79 minutes. The final goal of the game came from Alans Siņeļņikovs with five minutes to go and it capped an easy day’s work for Skonto who now look forward to two difficult games against fourth place FC Daugava and second place FK Ventspils on Matchdays 17 and 18 respectively. After Matchday 18 the final lap of fixtures (i.e. Matchdays 19-27) for each club will be determined in accordance with league placings. At the moment Skonto lead the table with 43 points from 16 games, FK Ventspils have 38 points whilst Metalurgs are a further five points behind. FC Daugava in fourth place have 32 points and are serious about challenging for a place in the UEFA Europa League next season especially as their win over FK Jaunība on Saturday was the club’s sixth win in seven games. At the bottom things remain tight as only five points separate Latvian Cup winners FK Jelgava in sixth place (16 games, 15 points) from FK Jaunība at the bottom in tenth spot.